LONDON – With a cold snap bringing snow, ice and freezing fog to large areas of Scotland and England this week, many people will likely have their minds set on a trip to the sun and the surf over the coming festive season.
According to Manchester Airport, large numbers are predicted to make avail of the direct services from the northern city to Barbados this year.
With the season for Winter Sun approaching, and tourist numbers bouncing back strongly from the pandemic, one Caribbean destination is proving particularly popular with passengers – with a record number set to travel there from Manchester Airport this winter.
November 30 marked Barbados National Day – a celebration of the island achieving its independence in 1966 – and the Northern hub marked the occasion in Terminal Two with an eye-catching display; its giant Media Wall adorned with imagery of ‘Bajan’ sand and surf.
What is driving Barbados demand?
Around a third of Barbados’ visitors are from the UK, and you can currently fly non-stop from Manchester with Aer Lingus, Virgin Atlantic and Tui to Bridgetown this winter – more airlines than any other UK airport.
The total number of seats available is around a 50% increase on the winter of 2019/20, the last ‘Winter Sun’ season prior to the pandemic.
Covid-19 travel rules were still in place in the UK as recently as March, so the boom in flight capacity has been rapid.
The Irish airline Aer Lingus chose to make Barbados the inaugural destination for their first UK transatlantic base, launched at Manchester Airport last winter, citing “strong demand from the North of England for flights to Barbados”.
So what is driving the demand? Tourist board Visit Barbados says the island has ‘something for every kind of traveller: the foodie, the explorer, the historian and the adventurer’.
With sunseekers denied the opportunity to travel abroad by pandemic restrictions over the last couple of years, many are looking for something extra-special.
Here we run through Barbados’ highlights – with suggestions from Visit Barbados, and from Manchester Airport’s Instagram followers, who responded to a post last week asking for their top tips on finding the island’s hidden treasures.
The Food and Drink
Barbados bills itself as the birthplace of rum and there are four distilleries on the island, each with a storied past.
Seafood is a big part of its culinary identity and shorelines are dotted with street food stalls cooking fresh fish on the grill, including the Bajan national dish – flying fish with coucou, a polenta-style side dish made with cornmeal.
The Asian influence can be found too, with curries and roti a common feature of restaurant menus. Visit Barbados offers a handy summary of the island’s top 10 culinary delights here.
Manchester Airport’s Instagram followers recommended trying out Oistin’s Fish Fry – a weekly Friday evening seafood market renowned for its food, drink and music.
The History and Culture
The historic centre of Barbados’ capital Bridgetown, along with its 18th Century Garrison, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the best-preserved examples of colonial era British architecture in the Caribbean.
It boasts the world’s third-oldest Parliament building, still in its original use. Some of Barbados’ plantation houses are now open to the public as museums, including a former home of George Washington.
The island’s musical culture is world-famous. Visit Barbados recommends keeping an eye out for Tuk Bands which it says “perform during celebrations and island festivals such as Crop Over, the Holetown Festival, at Christmas and on New Year’s Day.”
The Kensington Oval, on the western edge of Bridgetown, is the home of West Indies cricket and has been in continual use for over 120 years, hosting the 2007 Cricket World Cup final.
White sandy shores are probably the island’s most famous asset, covering more than 70 miles of shoreline.
The calm, clear waters of the west coast draw the most visitors. Manchester Airport’s social media followers suggest Carlisle Bay, a marine park off Bridgetown which is particularly popular with scuba divers.
Catamaran tours were also picked out as a highlight. The east coast of the island faces out to the Atlantic, and its slightly choppier seas make it a hotspot for surfing.
Adventure and the Great Outdoors
Although often considered a flat country, Barbados’ rugged east coast is a draw for climbers, and the interior of the limestone island boasts some impressive natural caves.
The biggest of these, Harrison’s Cave, is 50ft high at its widest point and has been transformed into an eco-adventure park.
With Manchester Airport currently struggling though delays and disruptions due to snow, along with southern airports like Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, a dose of Barbados sunshine certainly wouldn’t go astray right now!