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The Lesser Antilles of the West Indies - Caribbean Region

Tourism has taken over from sugar as the main stay in the Barbadian economy. Over the years it has been developed into a billion dollar industry thanks to the combined efforts of government and the private sector.

Not only is tourism the biggest foreign exchange earner it is also the biggest employer.

The Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), a government statutory corporation, is the principal force behind the growth of the industry. It has joined forces with the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) which is made up of all of the private sector entities which are directly or indirectly involved in tourism.

The BTA has established promotional offices in several parts of the world including North America and Europe and its representatives go all out to attract business from these markets.

The major thrust over the years has been to attract long stay visitors but in the last five years great emphasis has been placed on expanding cruise tourism.

The result is that Barbados now welcomes several cruise vessels with some of them home porting here and they bring more than half of the over one million visitors to Barbados on an annual basis.

Efforts to expand the cruise market even further are also underway with what is termed the 'fly and cruise' program. Visitors are flown into the island to join a ship and after their cruise they are flown back home.

Tourism officials are working out a strategy to try and convert these cruise passengers to long stay visitors.

The BTA has also intensified its efforts to increase the number of people spending longer holidays in Barbados. Promotional efforts have resulted in increased airlift out of North America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Airlines like US Air and Continental are now coming out of the USA while American Airlines, Air Jamaica and BWIA have increased their flights out of North America and Air Canada has increased the number of seats on its Barbados routes. The number of charter flights to Barbados is also expected to soar.

Delta Airlines has announced the launch of a new route from its hub at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. Starting December 8, 2005 travelers will have the option of a direct flight on Delta from Atlanta to Barbados' Grantley Adams International Airport.

On the other side of the Atlantic, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also increased their lift while the number of charters has grown with at least two new ones coming on board.

Europe is also on the cards for more scheduled flights and charters. The Dutch countries of Sweden and Denmark are expected to figure prominently in this area.

Several new markets have been opened including places like Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, North Carolina and Newark in North America; Manchester in the UK and Sweden in Europe.

The majority of people holidaying in Barbados are from the United Kingdom with North America, Canada and Europe following. The island is well known as one of the premier holiday destinations in the Caribbean and offers a diverse product. You may say Barbados has something for everyone with accommodation ranging from the luxurious villas on the west coast and five star hotels like Sandy Lane and the new Barbados Hilton to the reasonably priced apartments and small hotels spread around the island.

Barbados is anticipating an excellent 2005-2006 tourist season and it would not be surprising if it's not another record year. This is because most of the rooms which would have been taken out of service because of refurbishment or for some other reason are now available maximizing the number of beds available for tourists.

Of particular interest is the new 350-room Barbados Hilton which was closed during the last season but after its June opening is already showing spectacular growth. Several other properties have expanded making more rooms available.

The new Barbados Hilton is expected to considerably boost business travel even as it caters to those on holiday. It's located on one of the most spectacular sites in Barbados and offers ocean views from all of its rooms.

Facilities for meetings at the Hilton are extensive with about 10,000 square feet of available space including the Needham's Ballroom, and three other rooms that can be sub-divided.

An expanded and refurbished Grantley Adams International Airport is ready and waiting to welcome visitors this year. There's a large new arrivals hall and the entire airport itself has taken on a different look. The latest high-tech equipment has been installed as the authorities seek to move people through the facility as quickly as possible.

The Bridgetown Port is also going through some changes and soon there will be even better cruise facilities including two new berths.

Regular visitors to Barbados can also expect some new attractions and improvements or expansion to some of the existing ones. Oceanpark is one of the new facilities and offers a unique look at marine life.

Polo is growing in popularity and there are now more fields available for the sport, while the popular St. Lawrence Gap has been upgraded.

Barbados is known for its excellent climate and very friendly and hospitable people. It's also a safe destination with a variety of activities to be enjoyed. These are but some of the factors that encourage visitors to return to the island.

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