Barbados hosted the Caribbean Travel Marketplace for the first time this year (May 9-11) which saw over 700 delegates from 50 countries come together to showcase the Carribben’s tourism offering. Cheryl Carter, Director UK at Barbados Tourism Marketing, tells Selling Travel about what it means to host the annual event and what the country has to offer beyond the beach.
What did it mean for Barbados to host the Caribbean Travel Marketplace this year?
“I think this CHD marketplace in Barbados could not have happened at a more perfect time coming out of the pandemic, which of course hit us hard across the Caribbean. It’s an opportunity for us to bring our buyers and suppliers to the island so that they can also see for themselves that the destination is open for business.
“We’ve used the opportunity to introduce all who are here to some of the best that Barbados has to offer. I think in the United Kingdom, where the Barbados brand is very well known, we are predominantly thought of as a beach destination, but there’s a lot more to what the Barbados brand represents.”
Tell us about some of those beyond the beach experiences
“One of our top attractions is the Harrison’s Cave experience. You are taken in an electrically powered tram, a mile underground where you can see all the natural cave formations and even underground waterfalls. And you can now pair the tour of The Cave with ziplining and a rum tasting.
“Barbados is known for it’s rum, so a rum tasting is a must! Barbados is the home of Mount Gay, the oldest rum in the world dating back to 1703. The distillery offers a lovely rum tasting experience as well as a history of the island.
“We also pride ourselves on the range of food experiences on the island. We like to say we are the culinary capital of the Caribbean because we really offer in excess of 500 choices in terms of dining from street food to fine dining. We have a number of incredible restaurants like locally owned and run Champers which is constantly reinventing its menus and is supported well by locals and visitors alike, and then you have the street vendors selling our famous fish cutters like Cuz which has been around since the 70s.”
In your opinion, what makes Barbados so unique?
“The fact that you can see turtles in their natural habitat either swimming in the sea or even nesting on the beaches is something so special. There have been times when I’ve been sitting on the beach and suddenly all these baby turtles break through the sand and make their way to the surf.
“We’re lucky to have The Barbados Turtle Project who monitor nesting turtles and specialize in the conservation of these animals. Visitors can volunteer to help out on an egg retrieval (if the eggs are too close to the water or roads they have to be moved to a safe spot). And then of course, if you go on one of the catamarans or if you’re swimming in Carlisle bay you have the opportunity to see them in the water.
How are you working with the trade?
“One thing that we’ve seen for destination like Barbados is that people who travel here like to have that concierge service. It’s not just about booking, it’s about hand holding, and providing them with destination knowledge – even booking them into the restaurants because in the winter months you have to pre book!
“We recognise the important role travel agents play in bringing visitors to our shores which is why we have a travel agent loyalty programme in place called the Barbados Elite Club. We use that to reward agents for their bookings, from money cards to familiarisation visits to the island. We know that maintaining strong relationships with travel agents is key and agents actually voted the Barbados tourism marketing team the number one tourist board in March of last year, a direct result of the relationship and the support that we provided to the industry during the pandemic.
“We have a number of fams planned for the rest of the year so stay tuned and make sure you’re a member of the Barbados Elite Club!”