Barbados’ vital tourism sector is said to be booming with officials reporting that both arrivals and spend were up during the first quarter of this year.
Provisional figures released today by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. show a 7.4 per cent increase in arrivals between January to March this year, compared to the same period last year.
More significantly, visitor spend also jumped to an estimated US$336 million during the first three months of this year, representing an increase in total expenditure by stay over visitors of 20 per cent over the same period
Average length of stay also rose by 15 per cent to ten nights, compared to 8.7 nights in 2015. The BTMI said the increase in visitor arrivals for the period under review represented some 184,177 tourists compared to 171,413 during the same period last year.
William Griffith, the BTMI’s chief executive officer, credited the organization’s global team as well as its local and international industry partners for the improved performance.
There was also strong statistical evidence that the island’s airlift growth strategy was paying off in the United States, with stay over arrivals from that market increasing by 13 per cent to reach 42,383 in the first three months this year.
Business out the United Kingdom also continues to improve. In fact, that market recorded a ten per cent increase making for 24 consecutive months of boom or 71, 263 stay over arrivals.
During the period under review, Caribbean arrivals also grew by 14.3 per cent, led by a 34 per cent increase in Trinidad and Tobago which supplied 7, 210 visitors.
However, the Canadian market was relatively flat with 30, 675 stay over arrivals, representing a 0.8 per cent decline compared to January to March last year.
The performance of the European market was also sluggish, registering a decline of 6.1 per cent to 13, 129 stay over arrivals. Germany recorded the biggest drop of 7.3 per cent, contributing 4, 854 visitors.
During the period under the review, the island also posted 2, 930 stay over arrivals from South and Central America, as business from that market grew by 2.8 per cent over January to March 2015.
However, demand out of Brazil declined significantly by 48.2 per cent to 705 visitors. Nonetheless, some 2, 225 arrivals were recorded from other parts of South and Central America where 49.6 per cent growth was reported.
In terms of visitor spend, provisional figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s exit survey show that this was led by the US market, which recorded a 64 per cent increase or an increase in average daily spend of 22 per cent.
Visitor expenditure from the UK market rose 19 per cent; Canada by seven per cent; Europe one per cent; while other countries, including Latin America, Asia, Africa, contributed 22 per cent more in terms of visitor expenditure.
On the other hand, total visitor expenditure from the Caribbean declined by 18 per cent, as visitors to the island spent the bulk of their monies on accommodation, meals and drinks. Shopping was however down by 0.9 per cent.
The most significant growth achieved for the average length of stay was in those countries grouped in the category Other market, where length of stay grew by 37.3 per cent. Out of Europe average length of stay was up 25.6 per cent; the US 17.1 per cent; Canada 13 per cent; and the UK 12.2 per cent.
The Caribbean was the only market in which average length of stay remained unchanged during the first quarter.
Griffith is looking forward to a strong summer with the island’s premiere cultural festival – Crop Over – expected to feature prominently in the BTMI’s promotional efforts.
Overall, the tourism official said confidence had returned to the industry, as evidenced in the creation of new attractions, an improved hotel plant and additional accommodation options, as well as the strengthening of the island’s digital marketing strategy, led by a new destination website.
“Based on the reports coming from our tour operators, this is the light at the end of the tunnel. We will continue to work with them and incorporate their feedback, and the suggestions from the visitors themselves, so that we can maintain this growth path,” he said.