Team Canuck: Suzanne Christie; our driver Ruel; Wayne Noseworthy, Thomas Cook Canada;
Carol Menzel, Travelocity;
Gail Stewart, Barbados Tourism Authority;
Julie Suehiro, WestJet Vacations;
Frank Cumming, GSA.
Alexandra Wojcik, MangoBay Barbados and Judy Wallace, Air Canada Vacations
Canadian and U.S. operators recently gathered at the Hilton Barbados to reconnect and to be honoured by the Barbados Tourism Authority. Tourist visits to Barbados are holding their own fairly well compared to fellow Caribbean islands and, in fact, Canadian visits are up about 11% primarily due to the introduction of WestJet service last winter. The U.S. and British numbers are down though, resulting in an overall drop in visitation of about 15% – but even that is on the low end compared to Caribbean traffic decline in general.
Barbados has so many Canadian connections â€“ not only from the welcomed increase in air lift â€“ but from a history of Canadian investment and repeat visits to the island. The Friends of Barbados club recognizes all those who have made more than 25 visits to the island â€“ and the majority of that group are Canadians.
The main event of BGI Connects provides the opportunity for the visiting tour operators to meet with Bajan hoteliers, attractions and local operators in scheduled 15 minute sessions, but everyone was also given the opportunity to get involved with the destination itself on a fun-fari that took us on an island-wide scavenger hunt. The fun-fari was set up as a competition which included the creation of a team flag and cheer, deciphering geographic clues,finding local fruit and fauna as well as translating popular Bajan sayings. Our team Canuck competed enthusiastically, if not totally successfully.Â
During the event WestJet, Air Canada Vacations and Thomas Cook Group Canada were all recognized for their continued product enhancements. Air Canada Vacations is launching its B & B and guest house product â€“ an interesting option for an island that offers a great variety of accommodation options that suit the destinationâ€™s vibe. Itâ€™s a place where people should get out and take in the wide variety of local restaurants â€“ definitely not an all inclusive â€œdonâ€™t venture out from your resortâ€ destination.
WestJet is about to start daily flights from Toronto again for the high season and hopes to continue service year round. Holiday House and Fun Sun also have great expectations for Barbados with their new dynamic packaging â€œTravelGenieâ€ engine â€“ ideal for the FIT product that suits destination Barbados.
The group of operators also included big American names Expedia (who were honoured with the award for biggest growth in sales), Travelocity and Orbitz. The entire group was hosted to an opening reception at the historic Ilaro Court â€“ the official residence of the Prime Minister the Hon. David Thompson. The house was originally built in the early 1900â€™s as the governorâ€™s home and is set amid beautiful gardens alive with loudly chirping tree frogs. The coral and limestone home has large gracious drawing rooms and a lovely open central courtyard often used for official occasions.