by Marlon Madden
Barbados welcomed some 42,421 stopover visitors in 2021, representing a mere 20 per cent of the 2019 record visitor arrival numbers (219,605), and a decline from 2020 arrivals. Nevertheless, Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes is upbeat that the prospects for tourism this yr were looking lots brighter.
In actual fact, with the island playing host to 2 major cricket series this yr, there’s an anticipated boost in visitor arrivals from the UK, considered one of the island’s principal tourism source markets.
“All indicators are for a robust, though partial, recovery in the primary quarter, aided by the favourable impact of the influx of tourists for the English cricket tours, the expansion of airlift into the country and the positive advantages of enhancements to the tourism plant,” said Haynes during a recent presentation of the CentralBank report on the economy.
Haynes noted that along with the just concluded five-match T20 International Series between West Indies and England in Bridgetown, the island was in line to welcome about 5,000 more English visitors in March for a Test match. “I believe this can have a positive impact on our tourism because on the one hand, it fills rooms, but once they come, they spend and, subsequently, our small business sector advantages from their presence,” said Haynes.
Having a look back on the performance of the island’s tourism sector over the past yr, the Central Bank Governor identified that its revival strengthened throughout the last quarter, adding that long-stay tourist arrivals in December were at their post-COVID peak, reaching 47 per cent of the corresponding pre-pandemic level of 2019. This was because of this of the relief of world travel restrictions, the phased reduction in health protocols and pent-up demand contributed to a rebound in international travel.
The Central Bank noted that increased airlift, including from new non-regional markets, supported the recovering demand for the destination over the past three quarters of last yr.
Nevertheless, the steep fall in arrivals throughout the first quarter of last yr, following the 2020 end-of-year spike in domestic COVID-19 infections, outweighed the progressively improved performance over the past three quarters. “The general decline for the yr was 26 per cent and arrivals were only 20 per cent of 2019 levels.
The UK and United States remained the principal source markets, accounting for 74 per cent of arrivals.
The improved market share reflects the underperformance of the Canadian and Caribbean markets, with regional travel affected by reduced airlift and the shortage of stimulus of traditional cultural and sporting activities,” Haynes reported. Last yr, Barbados welcomed a complete of 143,509 tourist arrivals, compared with 207,378 visitors in 2020.
The UK accounted for the majority of arrivals (63,207).
This was followed by the US with 42,521, the Caribbean with 16,577 and Canada with 10,381 arrivals.
Barbados welcomed 5,303 visitors from Europe last yr, and 5,620 from other markets.
The impact of the gradual rise in arrivals on the accommodation sector was uneven. Improved occupancy and room rates, particularly in the upper priced market segments, raised revenue.
Hoteliers also increased the supply of room stock, including from the introduction of new plant.
Education tourism and the distant employee programme helped to spice up the ancillary sectors that were so damaged by the fall-off in arrivals. Cruise activity restarted, but fresh COVID outbreaks on cruise ships slowed the pace of the recovery of this segment.