Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy??

Meetings held with over 20 tour operators in Beijing and Shanghai over the past two weeks have been dubbed a success by Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy.

According to the Minister, the feedback was the same throughout the discussions – the Chinese travelling public is very keen to go to new destinations, including Barbados, now that there are fewer restrictions related to travel.

Acknowledging that there were challenges, such as the distance and visa requirements, Mr. Sealy maintained that a seed had been planted as a result of the meetings from which benefits would be realised in the future.????????

"It’s a bit difficult to get a visa – ??you have to get the visa through London, but with the approved destination status for guided groups of five persons or more with an approved tour operator, the visa can be issued on arrival in Barbados.

"So it means that there is a wonderful opportunity for us to get some group travel. And, the good thing about that, is that the Chinese tend to travel in groups, so perhaps we can get a charter going and start to get some business," the Minister explained.

He revealed that talks were also ongoing with several airlines. "We realise that the very long distance and having to connect and be intransit can mean that a long trip can be even longer, so we are looking to see what the possibilities are of having some direct airlift coming to Barbados," Mr. Sealy added.

He stressed that exploring the Chinese market in no way meant that government was "not doing what we are supposed to with the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America".

He disclosed: "Far from that, we have more seats now from those three markets than we have ever had – the US has increased by over 20 per cent year to date, and Canada has increased by almost 20 per cent year to date on a year where we had also increased in 2009. So we are shoring up our existing markets but we are also looking for new markets."

The Tourism Minister pointed out that China had tremendous economic growth and increasingly more of its citizens had disposable income. He also noted that according to the World Tourism Organisation, 100 million Chinese would be travelling by the year 2020. "About 50 million are travelling now. If one of every five of the world’s tourists will be Chinese, and we are a serious tourism destination, we have to start to get our act together," he stated.

Minister Sealy also said that the discussions started in China would be continued in Barbados in September during a high-level familiarisation visit for the travel media and tour operators.

"It will provide a valuable opportunity for them to see, feel and experience that Barbados experience, and meet some of the players on the ground in Barbados. Every single group we met with had expressed a desire to participate in that exercise," Mr. Sealy observed. gapplewhaite@barbados.gov.bb

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