Barbados aims to expand GCC reach

Visit Barbados and dnata representatives at the Barbados stand at ATM Dubai 2023 led by Barbados Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ian Gooding Edghill (second from left)

For global tourists, Barbados, a jewel of the Caribbean, evokes images of blissful relaxation, captivating natural wonders, and an undeniable sense of Caribbean allure. And of course, it is the home of living legends Rihanna and Sir Garry Sobers.

However, for the Gulf region, Barbados is still relatively unknown in terms of tourism. But this is going to change soon.

Looking to expand its tourism source market beyond its traditional mainstay markets, the Caribbean island nation made a determined pitch for Middle East tourists at the recent Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in 2023.

TTN spoke exclusively with Barbados Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ian Gooding Edghill, at the country’s impressive pavilion at the ATM, regarding Barbados’ tourism strategy and how it plans to expand its horizons.

“I can assure you that when you get to Barbados, you will feel the warmth of the friendly people, you will get to experience wonderful beaches, you will have fine food and you will fall in love with Barbados”
– Ian Gooding Edghill


“When I took office as Minister of Tourism last October, we made the bold decision to start looking at new and emerging markets, and the Gulf region is one of them where we have initiated dialogue with stakeholders,” he said.

“We believe Barbados has unique offerings that could be well received by Gulf travellers,” he continued, adding that the country is also targeting Latin America in a big way.

This is Barbados’ first participation in the ATM, and it aimed to build relationships through this foray into the Gulf market.

Barbados believes that visitors from the Gulf are seeking unique vacation experiences, and since the summer in the Gulf is extremely hot, it can offer the Barbadian summer experience with all its attractions to tourists from the region.

Barbados has a wide range of land-based and sea-based activities, luxury hotels, villas, and fine restaurants that cater to the preferences of Gulf visitors. “Barbados also hosts various events, including motor sports, which will appeal to this market. We believe that by offering a rewarding and genuine experience, we can attract visitors from the Gulf to Barbados,” said Edghill.

Barbados has traditionally focused on the British, American, Canadian, and Caricom (Caribbean union) markets. “We have a tiered approach to tourism, catering to the preferences of different types of tourists. Our upscale Platinum Coast on the West is particularly attractive to visitors from the Gulf with its beautiful beaches and luxury high-end villa accommodations.”

When asked about the experiences Barbados offers to Millennial travellers, he said the country offers a wide variety of adventure activities, such as surfing and exploring Harrison’s Cave, a crystallized limestone cave characterized by flowing streams, deep pools of crystal clear water, and towering columns.

Barbados also has a big focus on wellness, said the minister. “We have a number of spas that offer excellent health and wellness services. On the West Coast, you can find some of the finest spa treatments. Many of our spas use local products from the surrounding community, while Barbadians work in these highly-rated spas.”

He said Barbados is keen to increase its brand awareness in the Middle East, and apart from taking part in trade events, it plans to organise familiarization visits for travel agents and operators to see what the country has to offer. Additionally, the renowned singer Rihanna, who serves as a brand ambassador for Barbados, helps to raise awareness of the destination. The minister also hopes to rope in the cricketing legend of the nation, Sir Garry Sobers, to promote the country.

He said Barbados’ tourism numbers are back to 2019 levels, and the country is going in the right direction.

He added that the country is seeing increased investment in hospitality, with several new properties scheduled to open soon.

One obvious hindrance is the lack of direct connectivity from the region to the Caribbean islands. “We are discussing opportunities to build connectivity from the region. However, the Gulf already has good connectivity to the UK and US, to which we are well connected. From the UK, we have two major carriers, British Airways and Virgin Galactic. From the US, we have flights from New York, Newark, and Miami. Apart from this, there are also some connections to Europe,” the minister explained.

In conclusion, Edghill said: “I can assure you that when you get to Barbados, you will feel the warmth of the friendly people, you will get to experience wonderful beaches, you will have fine food, and you will fall in love with Barbados.”