Tourism boom

But attractions not reaping the spoils

Despite a double-digit growth in tourist arrivals in January, visitor attractions here did not reap the benefits of the increase.

Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer said provisional figures showed that long-stay tourist arrivals for January had climbed by 11 per cent over January 2015.

However, she said there was a moderate rise in income and visitors to the places of interest throughout the winter season and the country’s strong performance in terms of arrivals in January was not reflected in the revenue collected at the tourist attractions.

“[Operators of visitor] attractions from my membership are reporting that in January their revenues were basically flat; with only a five per cent increase in numbers and revenue across the winter period. However, February has been strong,” she said while delivering her report at the BHTA’s first quarterly meeting for 2016 at the Barbados Hilton resort this morning.

Springer said restaurants and car rentals have also been strong so far this year, although she was quick to point out that a lot of visitors, particularly those staying on the south coast, were opting to catch public transportation instead of renting cars or taking taxis.

The BHTA head reported that the country’s strong tourism performance in January was fuelled by a 20 per cent rise in arrivals from the United States, 16.5 per cent from the United Kingdom and 16 per cent from Trinidad and Tobago.

Arrivals from Central and South America jumped by 70 per cent mainly due to the introduction of the direct flight by Avianca out of Columbia late last year, she added.

However, there was a decline from the Brazilian market and a “basically flat” performance by Canada.

Springer was buoyant about airlift, saying it continued to be “an amazing story” this year. She pointed to new flights by Jetblue, Air Canada Rouge and regional carrier LIAT that either began recently or were scheduled to begin soon.

In addition, she spoke of additional airlift out of Munich, Germany; Suriname and Manchester, UK by the British global travel company Thomas Cook.

“Thomas Cook again is offering three flights per week from Manchester for the winter. However, there are concerns, and I met with the Thomas Cook people, about some of the rates hotels are charging that have increased considerably but they have not necessarily done anything to their product,” added Springer.

In relation to the cruise sector, Springer projected six per cent growth for 2016, raising the number of cruise visitors above the 800,000 mark.

“The port expansion was successfully completed, resulting in the extension to berth five and this allows for bigger cruise ships to be accommodated. The air to sea home porting has also grown considerably about ten per cent over last year,” she said.

The tourism executive also reported that hotel occupancy levels were up three per cent to 65 per cent in the last year when compared to the previous year, while revenue per available room was also up by $5 to US$379. However, the average daily rates fell from US$606 to US$574.

Despite the favourable performance so far, Springer urged vigilance, saying that a number of challenges on the international scene continued to be of concern. She listed among them an economic slowdown in Chinese, the slide in the value of both the Canadian dollar and the British sterling, the referendum in June on the UK’s relationship with Europe, the US presidential elections in November and the summer Olympics in Brazil.

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