Barbados celebrates another record year of US visitation

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PRNewsfoto/Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Visitation from the US to Barbados saw another record-breaking year in 2018 following the success of 2017’s record number of arrivals. Of the total 681,197 stayover visitors recorded for the year, 30 percent or 204,830 visitors were from the US. This also represented an increase of 8.4 percent over 2017, making the US the top growth market for Barbados globally.

“These numbers are a testament to the fact that Barbados is a leading, year-round destination,” said Petra Roach, US director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI). “The launch of new nonstop and enhanced air service have made the island more accessible than ever. This, complemented by our growing calendar of annual events and new tourism product developments like The Sands, have us on track to see even more growth in 2019.”

High-level airline partnerships have been a cornerstone effort for BTMI’s US office. This strategy has led to increased airlift and the introduction of new gateways. In December 2018, American Airlines introduced two important service changes from the US to Barbados which were a third daily flight from Miami and for the first time, daily service from Charlotte, NC. Furthermore, JetBlue is expanding its seasonal direct service from Newark to weekly direct service year-round beginning May 4, 2019.

To showcase the island’s ever-growing range of offerings to the travel agent community, BTMI hosted the third annual “Spirit of Barbados” Mega Familiarization Trip which brought over 150 agents from across the US to Barbados. In December, the island hosted the inaugural Millennial Travel Forum, bringing 15 top-producing Millennial travel advisers to the island for a multiday immersion and roundtable discussion. Launched by travAlliancemedia, this event encouraged the participants to engage their followers and spark conversations about the relevance of the destination and the product offering for the Millennial segment.

BTMI’s ongoing contributions to the travel agent community, specifically those of Roach, were recognized at the 30th Annual Virtuoso Travel Week conference when Roach was named the 2018 Ambassador of the Year. Roach stated that:

“To be recognized by the leader in luxury travel is an honor for which I am truly appreciative. I have a small but exceptional team with whom I work and whose dedication and commitment are a constant inspiration to me.”

The BTMI team also received the highest honor as Best Tourism Board Overall in the USA at the 2019 Travvy Awards – beating out Australia, Japan, Malta and Korea. Barbados took home two Silver Awards as well including Silver in Best Destination Overall as well as Best Honeymoon Destination in the Caribbean/Bahamas.

In 2018, the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) also hosted their annual convention which was a monumental affair as top writers and travel industry executives descended on the island of Barbados for the four-day conference.

The conference provided BTMI with a forum to discuss its many initiatives for 2018 and beyond. A primary focus has been on educating American travelers on the many – and often unknown – linkages between the US and Barbados. The burgeoning heritage tourism segment has become a top draw for visitation as well and it is estimated 9-10 million people in the US of varying racial makeup are of Bajan heritage – a reflection of Barbados’ pivotal role in early America.

Earlier this year, Barbados signed a sister city agreement with Charleston, which was founded by Barbadian settlers in the 1600s. The Gullah/Geechee people are known to be descendants of the Barbadian people and they will be hosting their first immersive trip connecting the Sea Islands and the Gullah/Geechee Nation to Barbados this summer. In the equally important New York region, BTMI will also continue its popular partnerships with the Brooklyn Nets and Greenwich Polo Club.

Possibly one of the most well-known Barbados natives, Rihanna was appointed “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” in 2018, continuing to provide significant exposure for the island in the US and globally. A tourism ambassador for BTMI since 2008, Rihanna stepped into her new role with expanded responsibilities as an official diplomat for her home country. The singer, actress, and head of the Fenty brand, also makes regular high-profile visits to the country annually, particularly for Crop Over.

The year 2019 will also be known as the “Year of Wellness and Soft Adventure,” an effort meant to draw attention to the island’s diverse healthy lifestyle experiences.

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