A ministerial delegation, led by The Hon. Richard Sealy, Barbados’ Minister of Tourism and International Transport, and including senior representatives from Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), recently hosted three intense days of meetings in Britain, meeting key tour operators, travel agents and media to update them on Barbados initiatives and to gain insight on business initiatives and consumer reactions following the UK decision to leave the European Union.
Barbados has already welcomed more than 100,000 British visitors to Barbados this year - a 3 percent year–on-year increase over a record 2015 performance. The visit to the UK was critical at this time as it was important to better understand how long-term partners and potential visitors are feeling, what decisions they are making and what support the destination can provide to ensure that Barbados retains its number one position in this market.
Billy Griffith, BTMI CEO mentioned, “The feedback from both our trade and media partners was encouraging. What we are hearing is that despite the current economic uncertainty in the UK, there is still a huge interest and desire to travel to Barbados among the UK travellers. It is also very important for us to ensure that we maintain the momentum achieved in 2015 and that we record growth in this our important anniversary year. Our work in developing new products, services and events was well received and our meetings this summer have laid the ground for even more productive meetings between Barbados and UK companies when we return for World Travel Market this November. We still anticipate a challenging period ahead but must be prepared for it.”
Minister Sealy was accompanied by BTMI chairman Alvin Jemmott, BTMI CEO Billy Griffith and Rosanne Myers the new chair of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA). They joined UK director Cheryl Carter and the BTMI UK team in a series of meetings with UK operators and airlines including British Airways, British Airways Holidays, Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic Airways as well as specialist luxury tour operators Caribtours, Kuoni, Kenwood and Tropical Sky.
The delegation also visited Chester in the North West of England to meet luxury tour operators there, including Azure, Elegant Resorts, Gold Medal, The Eden Collection and Lusso. The mission ended in Fulham, London on Friday night, with a visit to the recently unveiled Sandals Luxury Store.
While in London, the delegation also hosted a private dinner for a select group of the UK’s most senior and influential media including, BBC television producers and presenters, radio experts and personalities, magazine publishers, editors and writers working for a range of titles from Hearst Magazines, to Ultratravel Magazine, Spears Wealth Management, to the globally distributed Centurion and Departures Magazines. The influencers were treated to a marvellous Barbadian spread, created by Barbados born chef, Jason Howard. That event provided the opportunity for the delegation to provide the media with updates on plans for the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations, major island-based events and festivals and accommodation and experiential tours and developments in Barbados.
Roseanne Myers, Chairman BHTA mentioned, “The BHTA was very pleased to be invited to participate in this proactive direct approach to gathering information in the post-Brexit vote period. A number of operators lauded the continued effort of the BTMI office in London and the fact that top officials did not wait to interact only during World Travel Market in November.
Strong, smart partnerships with the trade and between BTMI and BHTA are going to be key moving forward and particularly in response to the fall and fluctuations in the value of the pound. We need to look at what our competition within and outside the region is doing. The good news was that the demand for Barbados is still comparatively strong.”