Barbados Gears Up for a Promising Winter Tourism Season

The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) is optimistic about the upcoming 2023/2024 winter season, anticipating positive developments despite not having fully regained the airlift capacity of 2019. In their quarterly briefing at the association’s headquarters, BHTA Chairman Renée Coppin expressed confidence in the months of December 2023 and April 2024, where capacity is expected to surpass that of 2019.

Coppin acknowledged that overall, the year 2023 would conclude with a decrease of 176,830 seats compared to 2019. However, she emphasized that the trend is moving in the right direction. Particularly noteworthy is the projection for Barbados to reach record levels of airlift from its key UK market during the winter season of 2023/2024.

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The chairman highlighted significant increases in UK flights and seat capacity from November 2023 to April 2024, with March 2024 poised to be the best winter month from this market. Factors driving these increases include Norse Atlantic’s five-times-a-week service from London Gatwick, Virgin Atlantic’s double daily flights from London Heathrow (January to March 2024), a record number of charter flights, and British Airways increasing Heathrow flights for April 2024.

Regarding airlift from the United States, Coppin noted a gradual increase post-COVID-19, with the strongest months for US airlift recovery predicted to be March, April, and May 2024, surpassing the seat capacity of 2019. While the Canadian market was described as “a little sluggish,” there were expectations of improvement for the winter season.

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Coppin expressed optimism about cruise travel, noting the successful start of the 2023/2024 cruise season with ships arriving at 100% capacity. She highlighted the positive impact on the local economy, with busy days at the Bridgetown Port benefiting taxi operators and the retail sector. The homeporting side of the business was particularly emphasized, with record charter arrivals and new entrants in the cruise tourism transport sector.

The BHTA chairman emphasized the crucial role of the tourism sector in building Barbados’ economy, citing the latest quarterly update from the Governor of the Central Bank. According to the report, tourists’ expenditure increased by $333.2 million compared to the same period last year, underscoring tourism as a major driver of the Barbadian economy.

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Providing a report on the recently concluded summer period, Coppin highlighted an 18.6% improvement in arrivals for the period of January to September 2023 compared to the previous year. Although not yet back to 2019 levels, arrivals for 2023 are at 86.7% of that banner year. Occupancy rates showed marginal improvement of 1.3% for the period July to September, with the full return of the Crop Over Festival contributing to a stronger performance in August. Average occupancies were reported as 52.5% for July, 56.1% for August, and 48.3% for September.

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