Barbados was one of the big winners in Caribbean tourism in
2015 with a 15% increase in visitors from the prior year. The island's banner
year could be attributed to several factors, including expanded airlift, hotel
development and aggressive marketing.
According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Barbados jumped to more than 527,000 stayover arrivals, an
improvement from its 2013 total of 508,520, which was a 5% decrease from 2012.
“I definitely saw an increase in Barbados bookings last
year,” said DeAnne Petritz, director of leisure travel at CI Azumano Travel in
Virginia Beach, Va., No. 45 on Travel Weekly’s 2015 Power List.
“It’s much easier to get to, thanks to JetBlue’s
year-round Mint service from New York and American’s expanded flights,” Petritz
said. “Sandals’ arrival last year was a game changer, and with a Hyatt and
Wyndham coming, there’s new products to offer.”
She credited Barbados Tourism Marketing with doing “a
great job promoting the destination and letting agents know what is new on the
While the Caribbean’s 7% surge in visitors last year
surpassed the global growth rate of 4% and set arrival and spending records,
there are concerns that the mosquito-borne Zika virus could hurt growth this
year, according to Hugh Riley, the CTO’s secretary general.
“Right now, we do not see any significant impact,” Riley
said. “But it is a concern, and we have mounted an aggressive information
campaign with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and are in daily
contact with the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention to let tour operators, hoteliers, agents and the public
know what precautions to take and what steps are underway to eradicate
[mosquito] breeding grounds.”
Riley spoke on Feb. 16, the day the U.S. and Cuba signed
an agreement re-establishing direct commercial flights between the countries
for the first time in more than 50 years.
“Cuba already has had an impact on tourism to the
region,” Riley said. “It is a magnet that has drawn new business and attention
to the Caribbean. We need to have programs that will offer multi-destination
travel, so visitors can combine a visit to Cuba with another island. Cuba is
doing well and so is the rest of the Caribbean.”
The CTO is forecasting an increase of 5% in Caribbean visitor
arrivals in 2016, hoping to meet the 30 million visitor target set several