Barbados tops charts with "Rihanna Effect," plans bigger 2018
After shattering 1987 arrivals record in 2017, Caribbean hotspot lures travel writers and tastemakers, hosting SATW during the "Year of Culinary Experiences"
Luxe new resorts, timely travel trade and air partnerships, and a high-profile hometown girl helped Barbados break a thirty-year-old stayover record in 2017, and 2018 is on track for even more growth, according to Petra Roach, U.S. Director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI). "This is a really exciting time in Barbados's journey and we want to spread the message that a vacation to Barbados is an immersive, transformative experience rather than just 'sun, sea and sand.'"
2017 saw the addition of coastal-cool concepts like Nikki Beach, the new Sandals Royal Barbados and a flurry of refurbished favorites including the Sea Breeze Beachhouse, Cobblers Cove, Waves, Fairmont Royal Pavilion and the Barbados Hilton.
New JetBlue flights out of the East Coast and Florida, strong online campaigns with Adara and Expedia, and diamond sponsor status with Virtuoso were big assists in boosting Barbados to 188,970 U.S. stayover visitors in 2017, breaking the previous record of 175,073 which occurred more than 30 years ago, in 1987. The U.S. market also snagged the top growth market crown for Barbados with an 11.7 percent year-over-year growth.
And of course, there's RiRi. The Bajan beauty is a tourism and cultural ambassador, spreading gold-record dust on her home island and appearing at annual events like Crop Over, Barbados' answer to Carnival. In December, the street she grew up on was officially christened "Rihanna Drive."
Not content to rest on its laurels, Barbados has an impressive U.S. outreach effort in 2018. BTMI has launched the Year of Culinary Experiences campaign, highlighting culinary and local experiences (including the ever-popular Barbados Food & Rum Festival) and will also feature a wellness and cycling festival.
The island will also play host to the 2018 Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) conference, drawing hundreds of U.S. travel writers, photographers and editors to its shores. Continued partnerships with Virtuoso and familiarization (FAM) trips with Travel Agent Magazine will keep Barbados top-of-mind in 2018.