A Canadian travel researcher is warning Barbados and other tourism-dependent islands that they simply cannot afford to rest on their laurels in the wake of the devastation caused to the region by hurricanes Irma and Maria last month.
Senior Research Associate with the Canadian Tourism Institute Jennifer Hendry further cautioned that while the majority of regional territories were spared the wrath of the two powerful storms, in the minds of many Canadian travellers this was simply not the case.
“At the moment there is a lot of uncertainty in the Canadian market currently, partly because people are geographically unaware where the islands are actually located. But there is also a lack of information, or there [are] conflicting reports about restoration efforts. So in many cases people are still thinking that, yes, they are still going to be travelling this winter, but I am not really 100 per cent sure where I am going yet or if I can even get there,” Hendry explained.
Barbados was among Caribbean islands which escaped the direct impact of Irma and Maria which devastated Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica and St Martin last month.
However, while regional arrivals from Canada are expected to continue to grow at an average rate of 2.2 per cent through to 2021, Hendry further cautioned those Caribbean islands that were not battered by hurricanes that the current uncertainty in the marketplace was less likely to benefit them than their competitors in Latin and Central America.
“This [the current uncertainty] is expected to boost an already prevalent last minute booking. Travellers, who had planned to visit countries like Cuba or Dominica before they were affected by the storm, are still more than likely to go to another sand and beach destination, but if they are price driven, the challenge is going to be to attract them to the Caribbean instead of Mexico,” she said, noting that the Caribbean was more attractive to tourists seeking the packaged experience than independent travellers who were not interested in a structured itinerary.
“They don’t necessarily want that experience packaged for the traditional view of a tourist. The younger traveller is instead looking for that authentic experience,” Hendry explained during her address to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC) at the Grenada Radisson Hotel.
Last year, Barbados recorded 610,000 visitors – up from the previous record of 592,000 tourist arrivals during 2015 – with the United Kingdom, United States and Canada being the main source markets.