Barbados focuses on 'Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure’

Kerrie Symmonds, tourism minister for Barbados, launched Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc's (BTMI) UK-wide Taste of Barbados roadshow by telling travel agents in London that the focus for 2019 is on wellness and soft adventure holidays.

Additionally, he made announcements about airport and hotel expansion, maintaining seaports for cruise visitors and ensuring the country is accessible to all.

He was introduced by Cheryl Carter, director of the BTMI UK office, who told agents that the UK is the largest tourism market for Barbados, with a 33% year-on-year increase in British visitors in 2018. Symmonds reiterated the importance of the UK market, saying: “2018 was the second-best year on record for arrivals from the UK. Once we get past Brexit and it all settles down, all will be well.”

In regard to the international airport, which was built in 1979 and suffers from issues with congestion, Mr Symmonds announced that the International Finance Corporation, the private sector part of the World Bank, is involved in the funding of major refurbishment works with a new operator who will have "20 to 30 years" to update, expand and run the airport. The refurbishment budget is expected to be between US$130 million and $150 million.

For cruise passengers, Symmonds said that a location for a new cruise berth for smaller ships, of between 1,500 to 2,000 passengers, is being selected because of the importance of the cruise market to the country.

Growth of its hotel capacity is another priority for the tourism ministry with plans to add 2,000 more rooms boosted by new rules which allow buildings of up to 15 storeys to be built. However, Mr Symmonds cautioned that while it is important to be "realistic" about development for the Barbadian economy, it is important that "a concrete jungle" is not created through excessive high-rise development.

He said that accessibility for disabled travellers is a major priority for the government with projects underway to ensure that attractions and hotels are disabled-friendly. Mr Symmonds then went on to say that Barbados has to stand up for the rights of all visitors and must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, race, class or sexual orientation - a statement that was met with a long round of applause from the agents.

Symmonds concluded his presentation by announcing that, following on from 2019 as the 'Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure’, 2020 will be the ‘Year of the Gathering’. This promotion will aim to encourage the Barbadian diaspora from around the world to return to the country to visit family and friends, as well as people who may not be Barbadian but have strong connections to the country.

As well as London, the Taste of Barbados roadshow - which features exhibitors, Barbadian cuisine and cocktails and entertainment - will visit Liverpool, Leeds, Chester, Newcastle and Birmingham. The tourism board is further planning a mega-fam trip for June and there will be places for 65 agents. Places can be won at the roadshow events.


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