Last updated: 09:03 PM ET, Fri February 12 2016

How Barbados Experienced A Tourism Turnaround in 2015

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | February 05, 2016

How Barbados Experienced A Tourism Turnaround in 2015

PHOTO: Barbados hosted record visitor arrivals in 2015. Shown here is the Sandals Barbados resort. (Photo by Brian Major)

Based on 2015 data, Barbados tourism stakeholders are succeeding in their campaign to restore the southern Caribbean island’s previous popularity among American leisure travelers.

Richard Sealy, Barbados’ minister of tourism and international transport, said recently 2015 was a “turnaround year” for the destination. Overnight, land-based visitor arrivals totaled 591,892, the most ever recorded in the destination. While the United Kingdom remained Barbados’ primary traveler source market, contributing 37 percent of visitors in 2015, the U.S. market grew by 25 percent year-over-year and represented 25 percent of international visitor arrivals last year.

Sealy attributed the visitor increases to the launch of air service to Barbados from Boston via JetBlue, along with the introduction of a twice-weekly service aboard Delta Air Lines from Atlanta and New York. Barbados last year also became JetBlue’s first international destination to receive its Mint premium service, which has since been extended to weekly, year-round service.

Sealy said last year’s launch of the Sandals Barbados and Sugar Bay all-inclusive resorts contributed an additional 380 more rooms to Barbados’ room inventory, enabling the increase in overnight arrivals. Sandals will build an additional 220 rooms at its Barbados resort this year, Sealy said. The company will also begin construction on the Beaches property planned for at the site of the former Almond Beach Resort later this year.

Barbados also enjoyed a successful year in the cruise segment with 586,615 visitors last year, a 5.1 percent increase over 2014. The passenger increase occurred despite the destination drawing 394 cruise calls, one fewer than 2014. The country accommodated larger ships last year following a recent expansion project at the Bridgetown Port.

Sealy said efforts are underway to increase visitor spending through the development of new attractions and community tourism events in 2016. Plans include jubilee celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the nation’s independence and the launch of a new destination website.

Sealy added that the tourism ministry and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) will seek to leverage the World Heritage Site designation of the historic capital of Bridgetown and its Garrison with activities designed to target cruise passengers. “We [recognize] visitors more than anything want authentic local experiences and this will be a top priority as we develop the sector going forward,” he added.

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