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After a year of record-breaking growth, don't expect Barbados' tourism success to slow down anytime soon.
In fact, don't be surprised if the destination sets even more records this year.
The reasons are simple: flights plus in-demand tourism products equal inevitable growth in arrivals.
Petra Roach, U.S. director of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), told TravelPulse on Tuesday that American Airlines will be increasing service to the island from Charlotte beginning December 19.
Previously, American offered a weekly, seasonal flight from Charlotte to Barbados. Now, American will offer daily flights departing at around 10 a.m., said Roach.
This latest flight news comes on the heels of American's recently-announced plans to increase service from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) to three times a week, also commencing Dec. 19.
"More service is always needed and is really key to the success of the island, so the fact that American is adding this service right after they increased their Miami flights really says what that airline thinks of Barbados and how much they believe in the island," said Roach.
High-level airline partnerships have been a cornerstone effort for BTMI. This strategy has led to increased airlift and the introduction of new gateways including Fort Lauderdale, Boston, and Newark.
Roach, who has garnered a reputation for securing flights into Barbados, says American's faith in the island is a testament to the destination's success in tourism. Among Roach's other major flight achievements was her securing of JetBlue Airway's Mint service out of New York and Boston a few years back. Mint has since expanded to several other Caribbean islands, including Grenada and St. Lucia.
"When airlines want to fly to our destination, it means they know we have potential," said Roach. "They see all the hotels and products we have coming on board and all the hotels we already have to offer."
The hotel developments Roach has credited for Barbados' recent success includes Sandals Royal Barbados, the island's second Sandals property that debuted in December. The Sandals addition is of particular importance given the brand's popularity among travel advisors, said Roach.
"Hopefully, Barbados will continue to work with airlines to provide more direct airlift to the island," said Alex Scipione, owner of Alex's Adventures in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. "Barbados offers guests a mix of both boutique and larger resort options. The island has the unique offering of being a little off the beaten path, giving visitors the opportunity to explore deserted beaches, try out the thriving restaurant scene, check out the shopping scene, while each area of the island offers a little something different."
Additional refurbished properties include the Fairmont Royal Pavilion and Turtle Beach By Elegant Hotels, and redevelopment projects include the Sea Breeze Beach House, Treasure Beach by Elegant Hotels, Waves Hotel & Spa by Elegant Hotels and upgrades at the Hilton Barbados Resort.
"What I really loved about the island most was the people. Bajans are some of the friendliest people I have ever met," said Emily Bertsch, a Caribbean specialist with VIP Vacations, Inc. in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "They are extremely welcoming. The other great thing about the island is that it is a perfect place to dive into the local culture, so I always strongly encourage clients to stay at an EP hotel."
Another huge tourism development on the island came recently with the opening of Nikki Beach Barbados. The beach club location includes a restaurant, pool and beach access with oceanfront seating for up to 200 guests.
"It really always comes down to increasing access to your destination," said Roach. "That's something we will always continue to do. But you won't get those flights if you don't have the product to attract the airlines. And Barbados has a lot of new and exciting stuff to offer."
In 2017, Barbados surpassed a 30-year record. The last time the largest number of American visitors into Barbados occurred was in 1987 and that was 175,093 visitors. Barbados hit around 188,970 visitors in 2017.
Over the course of 2017, the Grantley Adams International Airport welcomed 663,441 visitor arrivals, which was 31,308 more than 2016. The Bridgetown Port Inc. (BPI) also observed tremendous growth, recording 818,752 cruise arrivals over the previous year's 725,020, for a total increase of 12.9 percent. Of these 818,752 cruise arrivals, some 137,541 passengers stayed over in Barbados, above 2016's total of 130,924.
Agents like Scipione think there is still plenty of room for growth.
"In my opinion, Barbados is still a Caribbean destination market that is largely untapped," said Scipione. "Being from a northeast gateway, I know that it doesn't immediately come to mind when clients are looking for an easily accessed destination."
In 2017, the United Kingdom was once again the top producer of arrivals to Barbados with a 33.5 percent market share. But the United States, while being the second-highest producer of business, grew by an impressive 11.7 percent over 2016.
Bertsch attributes that success to a growing Millennial traveling base that treats safe exploring throughout a destination as a top priority.
"And the biggest thing for Millennials nowadays is to know they can go off property, dive into the local culture and still be in a safe environment, which perfectly describes the island," said Bertsch.
Joe Pike is senior editor for travAlliancemedia and has spent over a decade extensively covering the Caribbean, Mexico, Central...
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