Barbados is a premier Caribbean destination attracting over five hundred thousand (500 000) land-based tourists and over five hundred and eighty thousand (580 000) cruise passengers to its shores each year.
The tourism sector is the main economic driver of the Barbados economy, providing one out of every ten jobs on the island directly. Due to the importance of this sector, the Government of Barbados has always supported tourism with a variety of favorable concessions and incentives, most of which is covered under the Tourism Development Act. In more recent times, the tourism sector is now referred to as an export sector and consistent with this view, significant changes are taking place to enhance the Barbados tourism product and services.
Amendments to the Tourism Development Act
In October 2014, the Government of Barbados updated the Tourism Development Act to facilitate the continued enhancement of the accommodation product on the island. The updated legislation has effectively expanded the range of duty-free items that are used in the operation of a hotel. The most significant change relates to the waiver of duties on imported food and beverages used in the hotel sector. This was done for the specific purpose of improving the cash flows to the hotels, to facilitate additional reinvestments into the properties on the island. This is important because Barbados is seen as an expensive destination and the accommodation product will benefit from the enhancements to set us apart from the competition.
The formation of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.
The Barbados Tourism Authority was recently restructured with the formation of two new entities – the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA). Created as a reform to the original organisation, the new divisions will work together to transform the current tourism landscape by being focused on keeping the island top of mind in the dynamic and ever-changing tourism industry.
The BTMI will assume responsibility for all destination marketing while the BTPA will focus solely on the development and improvement of the island’s current and future tourism offerings. Both companies will continue to be housed on the premises of the former BTA and will work towards the ultimate goal of driving island tourism and increasing destination awareness.
The marketing company is a private company, which will allow it to be much more creative and nimble in its quest to take advantage of the various initiatives and opportunities in a market that is very fluid. This company will be able to enter into joint ventures with other private entities for specific marketing projects and participate in profit making activities to subsidize the cost of marketing Barbados. It is anticipated that in the coming months, there will be much more creativity in the marketing of this destination.
We are already seeing strong growth in arrivals to Barbados out of the United Kingdom, our most significant market. We are also starting to see new investments and reinvestments in the tourism sector as the demand for Barbados as a tourist destination increases. In recent meetings at World Travel Market, all of our Travel Trade Partners reported significant growth in bookings to our little gem, Barbados.
Petra Roach, acting CEO of the BTA was correct when she told us recently that the global travel industry is changing rapidly and it’s absolutely critical for Barbados that we respond to those changes equally swiftly in order to protect and build our visitor economy for the future. Consumers and travel partners are adopting new technologies, researching, booking and communicating their travel experiences very differently than in the past decade.
“Our two new focused organizations, the BTMI and BTPA, will ensure that we develop and communicate the best possible products for our island and our visitors for the future and we very much look forward to working with all our partners in this new era.”
Increased airlift from New York and Atlanta
With the recent announcement of nonstop flights from New York and Atlanta via Delta Air Lines kicking off this winter, Barbados continues to wow guests with ultimate sun, sand and sea experiences including an exciting line-up of island events and attractions such as the Barbados International PRO Surf Fest 2014 (November 13-16), the 5th annual Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival (November 20-23) and the Classical Pops Festival (December 11-14).
With all the positive changes in the marketplace, the current developments on the cards and the continued support of the tourism sector by the Government of Barbados, we are confident that we are in for some exciting times as this landscape changes.