Barbados remains a safe island for visitors and the destination of choice for a record number of Canadian travelers in the past year, says tourism minister, Richard Sealy.
Last February, Ottawa resident Terry Schwarzfeld and her daughter-in-law Luana Costman were assaulted while walking on a beach in the south of the island. Schwarzfeld, who was struck in the back of her head with a piece of wood, was airlifted to an Ottawa hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.
“This was obviously a very difficult period for the families of the victims,” Sealy told Share while in Toronto recently. “Our crime rate, however, is low and even lower with respect to incidents against tourists. Nowhere in the world is crime free and we would urge visitors to exercise normal security precautions.”
Close to 60,000 Canadians visited Barbados last year which was an increase of almost 30,000 annually in previous years and, based on figures for the first three months of the year, it’s projected that Canadian arrivals will exceed last year’s total.
In 1979, almost 100,000 Canadian visitors – 30 per cent of arrivals – traveled to Barbados. There was however a steep decline up until last year, with arrivals from Canada in 2007 being just nine per cent.
Sealy noted that the Barbados tourism industry is largely built on business generated from Canada just over three decades ago.
“In spite of the challenges trying to contain and protect market share and minimize losses and declines, we have seen double digit increases from Canada in the past year,” said Sealy who holds a civil engineering degree from the University of Florida and a Masters in business administration from the University of the West Indies. “Canada was the only major market last year with significant increases in visitor arrivals.
“When the Democratic Labour Party took office in January 2008, we deliberately set out to place more resources and emphasis on the Canadian market and we also leveraged the strong historical link between the two countries.”
Sealy recognized the fantastic job that the island’s official marketing representatives in Canada and travel agents are doing to sell and promote Barbados. He also announced that the Barbados Tourism Authority will soon unveil an incentive program for travel agents who are actively engaged in selling Barbados.
“We have to give the agents an incentive because they are the frontline people and many of them have been promoting Barbados for a long time,” said Sealy. “We allowed the Canadian market to drop off the radar for much too long. Now that we are trying to bring it back and build it, we need the travel agents. The global demand for tourism services has softened significantly, yet we are seeing major growth from Canada and we need to continue to work on that.”
The top travel agent will be rewarded with an automobile.