Barbados tourism representatives entered 2019 with some welcomed pressure on their hands to follow up two historic years for American air arrival numbers to the trendy, Caribbean island.
In 2017, 188,970 U.S. vacationers traveled by air to Barbados, beating a 30-year record of 175,093 visitors.
And it looks like that record won’t last as long.
Although numbers have not been officially confirmed, Petra Roach, director of the U.S. for the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), told TravelPulse that she expects 2018 figures will reveal another new record.
In fact, she said she “hopes” the number will exceed 200,000 American passengers. Roach said the number will soon be officially announced in a press briefing by Kerrie Symmonds, Barbados’ minister of tourism and international transport.
“We believe that growth has to be planned and, therefore, a lot of thought goes into understanding the demographic of the gateway, the connectivity that it brings, the propensity of the local population to travel, and any opportunities for trade linkages and investment opportunities,” said Roach.
And although those acts seem hard to follow in 2019, Barbados is heading into this year’s peak travel season with some influential flights that were absent last year from it high-season offerings.
On December 19 of last year, American Airlines launched new flights to both Miami and Charlotte. Roach said the decision to add direct, daily service from Charlotte was a “no-brainer” due to Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s (CLT) nearly 700 daily departures.
In fact, Roach said CLT is the second biggest departure airport across American Airlines’ network, next to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Previously, American offered a weekly, seasonal flight from Charlotte to Barbados.
That news came off the heels of American’s announced plans to increase service from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) to three times a week.
And agents in both markets are excited about the potential sales that these new flights can bring in 2019 and beyond.
“American Airlines further developing their hub at CLT is a brilliant move because of the growth potential and importance Charlotte has to the nation,” said Avery Harris, director of marketing with Viking Travel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “Adding a nonstop flight from CLT to Barbados provides the highest possible level of accessibility for a diverse populace with a strong middle class, along with many affluent residents.”
And Harris said it was the rising appreciation of the food scene in Charlotte that might make natives of the city even more attracted to Barbados’ reputation as a growing destination for foodies.
“One of the most exciting things happening in Charlotte right now is a booming culinary and foodie scene,” said Harris. “North Carolina will always be known for our barbecue, but with rapid population growth, Charlotte is steadily becoming more diverse.”
And with Harris recently visiting the island as part of travAlliancemedia’s inaugural Millennial Travel Forum (MTF), he can personally vouch for the island’s cuisine from its well-known seafood dishes to unexpected favorites.
“Going to Barbados for the first time, I knew the island was accessible, safe, historic, and beautiful,” said Harris, “but I wasn’t aware the culinary scene was so vibrant. I experienced some of the most unique dishes and freshest foods I’ve ever encountered. I was struck by the range of dishes as well. Of course the seafood is amazing, but I had no idea I’d be exploring dishes like pigtail and breadfruit.”
And as far as the new Miami service goes, Paul Stroncek, a cruise travel specialist with Dreamlines in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is hoping it will increase his family business to the island.
“The ease of accessibility is what leisure travel really boils down to,” said Stroncek, who also attended the MTF in Barbados back in December. “When you have a nonstop, three-hour flight going out of Miami, it’s great for multi-generational families, as the elderly don’t want to be rushed to get a connecting flight, nor do mothers want to gather the kids and have an extra-logistics task.”
The thrice-daily service launched on December 19 of last year and will run through April 2. The new schedule will also be available from June 6 – August 19, 2019. Twice daily service will operate at all other times.
According to a BTMI news release, this move aims to deliver an increase of almost 50 percent capacity from April 2 through to August 20.
“A nonstop flight is as good as it gets in the travel industry,” said Stroncek. “Charlotte and Miami are huge factors for Barbados becoming the top Caribbean island destination within the next few years.”
On the Horizon
Roach told TravelPulse JetBlue Airways recently announced that its winter seasonal flights from Newark to Barbados have been extended to year-round flights. Roach said those flights will be on Saturdays and that the BTMI’s “focus now is to further grow that route.”
And what about other new flight routes we can expect from the U.S. to Barbados in the near future?
“We have enjoyed a rapid increase of seat capacity out of the U.S. in the last four years, so we want to allow that capacity to seed and take root fully before looking at further expansion,” said Roach. “Our focus now is on cultivating a repeat visitor and, therefore, rather then a broad-based marketing approach, we have adopted a very targeted approach – history and culture, genealogy, polo, culinary, horse racing- all niches that are unique selling propositions for us.”
Millennial Travel Forum Barbados
travAlliancemedia’s inaugural event saw 15 Millennial travel experts tour the island of Barbados and chronicle the forum on Instagram and other social media platforms with the goal of using ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ to generate business to the forum’s host destination.
Throughout the four-day affair, the advisors stayed at The House by Elegant Hotels, Treasure Beach by Elegant Hotels and the Waves Hotel & Spa by Elegant Hotel hosted the agents.
If you missed it, be sure to follow all 15 Millennial agents who chronicled (and continue to post about) the event. Also, use #MTFBarbados on Instagram to check out some of the best social media postings from the four-day forum. Also, be sure to follow Roach by using @petraroach100.
MTF: Barbados Agents’ Instagram Handles
— Marisa Costa, AMIKO and Protravel International @marisagoesglobal/@helloamiko
— Daniela Harrison, Avenues of the World Travel @avenuesoftheworld / @traveltheworldwithdaniela
— Caitlyn Gambino, Aum Journeys @aumjourneys
— Jennifer Carr, The Tropical Travelers @tropicaltravelerjenn
— Avery Harris, Viking Travel @avery.vt
— Michael Shane Stephens, Curated Global Travel @themichaelshane
— Hannah Schremp, FROSCH @wherentheworldishannah
— Paul Stroncek, Dreamlines @travelmanager_paul
— Caroline Bracewell, Protravel, Inc. @Fivestarnomad_caroline
— Brian Moses, HE Travel @brian_moses
— Stephen Scott, Travel Hub 365 and Protravel International @travelhub365
— Maggie Crockett, Sanders Travel Centre @onthemovewithmaggie / @magsmaggie
— Meredith Donaldson, World Citizen Travel @worldcitizentravel
— Bailie White, BE The Travel @bethetravelgram
— Cathleen Richards, SmartFlyer @curatedbycath
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