The United Kingdom (UK) market continues to be the number one source of visitors for Barbados despite a number of challenges.

Lord Andrew Adonis, presenting today at the Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference at the Hilton Hotel. (A.Miller/BGIS)

This declaration was made by Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, as he addressed the opening of the Institute of Travel and Tourism’s (ITT) Conference at the Hilton Barbados this morning.

Speaking to conference attendees – UK professionals in the travel and tourism industry – Minister Sealy acknowledged that this was the first time the ITT had returned to a host destination and expressed confidence in what has been the island’s premier tourist market since 1994.

"…Leisure tourism has been the main driver of those numbers [from the UK].?? With the sports tourism and weddings and honeymoons taking pride of place, as far as niches go…Barbados continues to cherish this close relationship with the UK…," Mr. Sealy noted.?? He highlighted the fact that, despite current challenges, Barbados had seen more than 80,000 UK visitors from January to May 2012, with more than 189,000 UK arrivals in 2011, an increase of 4.5 per cent from 2010 and representing 33 per cent of all visitor arrivals.??

Noting that Barbados’ consistency in the sector, in spite of the economic climate, was supported by the performance of arrivals from continental Europe – which were aided by the charter flight from Scandinavia -?? the Tourism Minister disclosed that "The WTO has forecast that the next 20 years will be of continued growth for the sector and it is against that background that the Government of Barbados will continue to invest in tourism as a central contributor to the island’s future economic success."??

The tourism-related goals for Barbados were many, as Minister Sealy outlined the White Paper on the Development of Tourism in Barbados and the Tourism Master Plan 2012-2021 as the two documents which will guide the industry’s future.

He also spoke to the Megatrends Underpinning Tourism to 2020: Analysis of Key Drivers for Change research document, which, he suggested, provided critical areas of import for Barbados – namely, the changing needs of tourists; destination policy planning and development; and sustainability.

"We have moved with the tide and are providing the interesting and authentic experiences the visitor craves through our cultural/heritage niche…," he said, underscoring Friday night Oistins Fish Fry, Cricket Legends of Barbados Museum; the Freedom Footprints heritage trail; and Bridgetown and its Historic Garrison, which will be officially inscribed as a World Heritage Property on Wednesday, as examples of these offerings.?? Minister Sealy also described the African Diaspora Heritage Trail

Conference, which will be held in Barbados from September 17 to 19, as a contributor to the continued effort to preserve cultural heritage.??

Richard Sealy (centre), Minister of Tourism,??listens intently to the presentations at today’s ITT Conference. (A.Miller/BGIS)??
Participants of the ITT Conference enjoy Barbadian delicacies and entertainment today at the Hilton Hotel. (A.Miller/BGIS)??

In reference to the other two themes, he revealed that "…we are going back to basics through our National Tourism Host Programme…to enhance the knowledge base and raise the level of awareness among all persons employed or associated with the hospitality sector…Ultimately, this programme will improve the relationship between the visitor and the Barbadian public and improve the quality of the visitors’ experience…

"On the subject of sustainability…There is a paradoxical relationship between the benefits tourism brings to a destination and the debilitating impacts that the same tourism can deliver if not strategically planned, controlled and managed…It is indisputable that the tourism sector must play a key role if Barbados is to realise its aspiration of becoming a Green Economy," he stressed, adding that sustainable tourism was not only about protecting the environment, but preservation of patrimony.

The three-day ITT Conference features speakers from various sectors within the tourism industry including: Lord Andrew Adonis, who offered a critique of a proposed Thames Estuary Airport in the UK; Ian Ailles, who will discuss the balance of innovation and growth while meeting ever-changing customer needs; and Ben Schott, who will analyse the widening gap for travellers in Economy and First Class.??

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