BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Barbados tourism officials were expressing concerns at the level of visitor arrivals indicating that the high interest showed during the winter season has not been mirrored in the summer, even with the return of annual Crop Over festival.
“Tourism is our best chance at this moment to secure the future of our island, however, as we emerge from the (coronavirus (COVID019) pandemic this will not be without its challenges,” said the chairperson of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Renee Coppin.
‘’We know that despite strong winter arrivals to the island from December 2021 to April 2022, we’re down 47.1 percent when compared to 2019 levels. We equally know that while many of our members enjoyed good winter performances our stats say that average hotel occupancies for that same period December 2021, to April 2022, were down by 10.1 percent,” Coppin told the BHTA’s 70th annual general meeting.
“As we look forward we are aware that summer will be a challenge given that inbound passenger flights for all markets in the period June to October 2022 are down by 29 percent and this is compared to our last normal year 2019. Inbound seats to the island for that same period are down 37.4 percent.
“We remain positive that even though airlift does not at any point this year return to 2019 levels we will move to a fuller recovery in 2023. We will continue to work with the BTMI to keep them aware of our tactical needs and we ask for all of your support in this process,” Coppin added.
Barbados will be hosting the annual Crop Over for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic with both the Grand Kadooment and Foreday Morning , two of the biggest events of the Festival, returning after last being held in 2019.
Coppin told the meeting that the upcoming summer months presented the biggest challenge, even as she maintained that there was a need for Barbados’ summer offerings to visitors to be significantly improved.
“As we look forward as a country we must continue to ensure that we build out both our orange economy and our sports economy so that we have a viable calendar of events and activities to drive business to the island,” Coppin said.
Meanwhile Coppin believes the government should continue to place much emphasis on the tourism sector, amid calls for a diversification of the local economy.
She said that it would be ill advised to develop other sectors while putting tourism on the backburner.
“In fact when I assumed this office I personally received calls from some well-intentioned people telling me how I have to use my platform to speak for the need for Barbados to diversify our economy. I have to say that my expertise, my passion are not in that area. While I am in full agreement with the need for Barbados’ economy to be firing on all cylinders that is not my mandate.
“…What I am committed to is the continued role of tourism and the BHTA in contributing to the social and economic growth of Barbados by supporting all of our other industries. Tourism does contribute to Barbados by supporting other sectors through expansion of market size and access; by ensuring that there is foreign exchange to support the quality of living of Barbadians; by creating linkages to other markets and thereby engendering better trade opportunities and in a number of other ways tourism clearly establishes why it should continue to be one of the main planks of Barbados’ economy,” she added.
She told the meeting “it is an industry in which we have a natural competitive advantage and we are going to be very hard-pressed to find a quick replacement for it. The question would then need to be asked, ‘Why would you get rid of something you’re good at?’ The challenge therefore becomes how can we make tourism stronger, more responsive and more relevant.”
Coppin said the results of a recent survey showed that Barbadians believed there were more benefits to garner from tourism than drawbacks even as she acknowledged that Barbadians were in favor of the country reducing its dependence on tourism, as the pandemic had highlighted its vulnerability.
“Our conclusion based on the information in front of us is that the assertion that Barbadians want to move away from tourism is false and what we understand Bajans really would like is for our island to move away from its disproportional reliance on a single industry, first sugar and now tourism, towards expansion and improvement of our other productive sectors,” Coppin said.