Barbados is BTN’s Destination of the Month. In the first of a series of features Adam Hakansson looks at how the Caribbean hideaway continues to prosper during the global downturn.
If you go on the British Airways or Virgin Atlantic websites right now and search for a flight to Barbados you won’t find many seats left in any classes. Despite the fact both airlines operate a 747 daily to the island, demand is such that they are almost all sold out.
It’s not the same story elsewhere in the Caribbean.
But how is this? And why does the island seem to buck worldwide trends when it comes to tourism, particularly when it comes to UK visitors?
Part of the reason is the long shared history that Barbados and the UK enjoy.
To this day the island is known affectionately as ‘Little England’, due to their love of cricket, the fact it is divided up into parishes, the use of place names such as Clapham, Dover, Hastings and Lancaster, driving on the left, roundabouts and afternoon tea (to name but a few).
(Above: The New Kensington Oval - Home of the World Cup)
One of the best ways to get an insight into all things Bajan is to visit www.TotallyBarbados.com, a local website dedicated to promoting the island. Winner of last year’s “World’s Leading Travel Destination Website” at the World Travel Awards, Totally Barbados is a one-stop shop for locals, visitors, businesses and investors alike.
Managing director Brett Callaghan explains the idea behind the website: “To be able to work with all businesses island wide and overseas Barbados related businesses in promoting their products and services while showcasing to all people how beautiful Barbados is and all that there is to experience in Barbados.”
(Right: Rooms with ocean views at the delightful Rostrevor Hotel)
Another appeal for visitors to the island is the variety of accommodation on offer, from the world-class luxury of Sandy Lane, to staying with a Barbadian family and get a better understanding of the Bajan lifestyle. Accommodation options, plus first hand knowledge of guest houses and family stays, can be found on www.TotallyBarbados.com.
Time and again when asked what they like most about visiting the island, tourists will answer “the people”. They are Barbados’ best asset and part of the reason why the island enjoys a 40 percent return visitor rate.
This aspect of the island is also highlighted in www.TotallyBarbados.com. Brett Callaghan says: “Overall the Barbadian population is a very friendly one, and with tourism being a major contribution to the economy, most Barbadians are keen to ensure that you have a good time while visiting. Barbadians are very proud of their country and love to tell visitors about their heritage and history, so please make the most of your surroundings and talk to the locals.”
(Left: Crane Beach - one of the world’s most incredible beaches)
The island also works very closely with the travel trade through various promotions that take place throughout the year. This has the effect of keeping Barbados top of mind among travel agents and tour operators.
Barbados also runs a very popular Sports Camp each summer. Again, free of charge, the Sports Camp is open to kids visiting or on the island and gives them the chance to train with former sports stars – and gives their parents a short break. This year, for example, the Sports Camp featured ex-Crystal Palace players Mark Bright and John Salako, Graham Poll and Ray Clemence, cricketers Graeme Hick, Desmond Haynes and Joel Garner and netball stars Kendra Slawinski and Olivia Murphy.