Visitors staying away from hotels, warns BHTA official

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Barbados recorded an 8.1 per cent increase in long-stay visitor arrivals during the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2016.

However, Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Rudy Grant pointed out today that this was not reflected in the occupancy levels of BHTA member properties, which reported a mere 1.5 per cent increase in occupancy for the January to June period.

With every indication that visitors to the island were now opting to stay elsewhere, Grant called on BHTA members to step up their game.

“If, of course, the overall arrivals are increasing by 8.1 per cent and our member properties are reporting they are seeing an increase of 1.5 per cent, all of the increase in visitors of course is not going to our member properties.

“We therefore have to be very aware and conscious of the new realities and we have to ensure that we are able to design those benefits and provide added value for our visitors so that we are able to encourage more persons coming to Barbados to visit our member properties,” he told the BHTA’s third quarterly general meeting at the Barbados Hilton Resort.

The BHTA executive did not indicate where the visitors who avoided hotels were staying. However, hoteliers have complained in the past that homestay programmes such as Airbnb have been eating into their bottomline.

During the period under review, Barbados welcomed a total of 346,849 long-stay visitors, compared to the 320,953 for the same period last year.

Cruise passenger arrivals increased by 76,130 or 21.1 per cent during the first half of this year, compared to the corresponding period last year.

There was a 23.5 per cent increase in cruise calls, which reached 310 between January and June, compared to the 251 calls recorded during the same period last year.

The biggest jump in visitor arrivals was out of the United States market, which increased by 17.9 per cent to reach just over 98,500 visitors. This was followed by the Canadian market, which registered a 12.7 per cent increase.

However, while the United Kingdom (UK) remains the country’s number one source market with 116, 007 British tourists coming here between January and June, its performance was flat — a hike of just 0.9 per cent in arrivals.

The number of visitors arriving from other European countries grew by 11.7 per cent; neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago 6.4 per cent; other Caribbean markets 4.1 per cent, and Central and South America 9.1 per cent.

However, there was a dramatic decline in arrivals out of Brazil, which fell 47.9 per cent to 790 visitors, compared to the 1,516 between January and June last year.

There was also a 6.2 per cent decline in arrivals out of Germany. Grant did not report on visitor spend.

But in terms of airlift, he said flights for the upcoming winter season were looking favourable with the island set to receive “a slight increase of 7,000 seats” over the five-month period.

During the period under review, Delta and Avianca airlines discontinued their services to the island.

Presenting the administrative review, Grant also pointed to the need for the BHTA to continue to work closely with stakeholders to develop appropriate marketing strategies in order to ensure the UK market remained the island’s number one source market.

This, he said, was critical in light of a signal out of Jamaica that it would be seeking to tap into the 800,000 strong UK diaspora market and to ensure that the UK becomes its number one source market.

“Of course we want to ensure that we take necessary actions so that we continue to be the number one destination for UK visitors and to ensure that as we would say, no one is able to eat our lunch,” Grant said.

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