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Visitor arrivals on the rise

Tim Slinger

Visitor arrivals on the rise

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MORE AND MORE tourists are coming back to Barbados. 
For the period ending at mid-March, visitor arrivals increased by an overall 9.2 per cent when compared with the corresponding period last year.
The turnround in tourism performance has been described as “excellent and pleasantly surprising” by David Rice, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA).
“It’s an absolute change since we have brought about 11 400 more visitors to Barbados than we did in 2010 and the individual performances show the United States is up by 11.7 per cent and the United Kingdom by 16.2 per cent,”?he told the SUNDAY SUN.
The BTA chief said the results for the year also showed that arrivals had increased by 1.7 per cent over the same period in 2008 which was regarded as a bumper year, following declining numbers in 2009 and 2010.
While noting that Britain had become one of Barbados’ declining markets, Rice said he was pleased with the bounce-back.
“We were on the decline, so we turned around, certainly in the first quarter of the year, and we would like to believe if we continue with the things we’re doing and more, we will have that performance as a positive performance for 2011.
“It would be one of the first times we would be able to turn it around, certainly in two years out of the UK, and that’s important,” he added.
Rice was also excited about the increase from the United States market which he partly attributed to the introduction of the Dallas three-days-a-week flight which started last December 16.
“As a matter of fact, the [plane] loads have exceeded our projections, so we are very pleased because that opens up the western corridor of the US in terms of bringing not only that market, but a different type of visitor as well,” he said.
The BTA boss also credited a high-powered marketing drive fuelled by a Ministry of Finance $6 million injection as one of the major reasons for the success so far.
“We hired a new marketing agency in December 2010 and we believe that the initiative with television campaigns, which we haven’t done in a long time, and the fact that we have become more visible in the market, which includes [advertisements] in taxi cabs, ads on the ground, more visibility within the magazines and newspapers, has been making it more compelling to visit Barbados.
“We believe that has had an effect,”?he said.
Rice also spoke about cruise ship arrivals against the background that Barbados had lost some cruise lines which he said was not “entirely unexpected”.
Noting that the Barbados Port Authority was the front player in this segment, he said: “Our responsibility in the BTA is to make sure that we continue to strategise and to have strategic initiatives in place that would encourage these cruise lines to continue to focus on Barbados as a port of call. If we can continue to do that we certainly believe that our performance will improve over the year.”
He said projections for this year’s tourist arrivals included 200 000 from Britain; 140 000 to 150 000 from the US; 90 000 from CARICOM and 75 000 out of Canada.