Strategic marketing initiatives and increased airlift led to solid arrivals growth in 2018 for Barbados, according to new data released by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI). In a written statement, BTMI CEO William “Billy” Griffith said that the destination saw a 2.7 percent year-over-year increase in stayover arrivals last year.
During 2018, Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) welcomed 681,197 visitor arrivals, 17,686 more than 2017. The island’s cruise tourism was significantly impacted by redeployments following the 2017 hurricane season, officials said, since Puerto Rico – the primary homeport for U.S.-based sailings to the southern Caribbean – was severely affected. Through new homeporting business, however, Barbados was still able to see 826,267 cruise arrivals for both transit and homeporting visitors combined, the BTMI said.
Griffith attributed the destination’s performance to a number of strategic and integrated marketing initiatives in Barbados’ top source markets, as well as the addition of new airlift. For example, last July 17 Copa Airlines inaugurated a new twice-weekly service from Panama, while in the winter 2017 – 2018, Virgin Atlantic added twice-weekly service from London Heathrow, which recommenced in December 2018. Around the same time, Thomas Cook added a new weekly flight from London Gatwick, which also recommenced in winter 2018 - 2019.
From the United States, American Airlines added a third flight from Miami, starting December 19, 2018, as well as a daily flight from Charlotte, which started the same day.
WestJet saw an 8 percent increase in seats last summer between May and October, while Air Canada increased capacity out of Montreal by 75 percent last winter via a large aircraft and three weekly flights.
In terms of attractions and accommodations, the 2017 – 2018 winter season saw the refurbishment of Sea Breeze, Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Treasure Beach and The House. The recently opened Sandals Royal Barbados on Maxwell Beach has also brought new business to Barbados, Griffith said.
New attractions have included the Nikki Beach club that opened at Port Ferdinand, as well as last December’s grand opening of Virgin Holiday’s Departure Beach. Most recently, the Heritage Railway kicked off its inaugural trip, running from St. Nicolas Abbey up Cherry Tree Hill.
Looking ahead to 2019, Griffith said Barbados is packaging the year as the Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure, which will see the destination highlight the different accommodations, attractions and activities the island has to offer to support the growing wellness industry. A number of new festivals and events centered around health and wellness are also on the docket.
Also up next: the Connect Barbados B2B conference, which is expected to draw tour operators from around the world from May 1 – 4, 2019.