BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- "It will be a tough winter from North America to Barbados," said Ralph Taylor, the deputy chairman of the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA). "But we expect Barbados can weather the storm." In response to the Sept. 11 events, Taylor announced that the island established an economic council with an allocated budget of about $15 million.

Barbados is home to several open-air markets, where bargains for jewelry and handmade crafts can be found. Objectives of the council include revamping the print and television ad campaigns for winter travel; offering increased support for industry partners, and creating an expanded Qualified Travel Consultant (QTC) program, said Taylor.

The ad campaigns are designed to "heighten consumer response as we head into the winter season" by promoting island events, such as the annual Jazz Festival and the African-American Film Festival, according to Hugh Riley, BTA's director of marketing and sales for North America.

Support for industry partners, including tour operators and airlines, will be decided on a case-by-case basis and could include lowered landing fees for airlines and cooperative ad campaigns with tour operators. Enhancements to the tourism product also will focus on value-added packaging and reduced hotel rates as well as on product and service upgrades with new on-island training programs, he continued.

Enhancements to the QTC program include an introduction of a Master's course for past QTC graduates; a new loyalty program that will provide increased benefits for top producers, and a dedicated QTC Web site for news and specials. "The updated QTC program will give agents the tools to succeed in the challenging times," Riley said. Details should be available early next year.

On the agent front, the tourism authority is increasing the number of fam trips to the island this winter. A spokesman for the authority said the launch of US Airways' service from Philadelphia on Nov. 3 should attract more fam participants as well as consumers.

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