In May I attended a familiarization (FAM) tour of Barbados, along with a dozen other winners of the 2012 “30 under 30 Top Travel Professionals” award from Travel Agent Magazine. The host’s goal for a FAM trip is to showcase their destination to travel pros that have the highest likelihood of selling their clients a travel package to the destination. My personal goal on any FAM trip is to get a feel for the region’s gay vibe, scope out gay locals to give me the down-low on gay life in their community, sample some great restaurants, and fondle the sheets! So when I went to Barbados, I was specifically looking for the activities and amenities that HE Travel’s discerning clients would enjoy.
This time, I’m requesting your feedback. Read about my trip, and then take our 3-minute survey at the end!
Day 1: Barbados in the Dark
I tried to catch an early morning flight directly from Miami to Barbados, but missed my connection and had to wait until 7pm. Barbados has non-stop flights from New York and Miami and connecting flights from numerous other cities. I’d say that access is a plus. When I arrived in Barbados, Customs took about 10 minutes for a full flight. Wow, the last time I went to Europe, Customs took 45 minutes. I was pleased to see that Barbados didn’t waste any time asking me pointless questions.
I arrived at the hotel after dark, just before the group was heading out, and scrambled to get ready so I wouldn’t miss my first visit to a local nightclub. Turns out we were walking to a fun, but kind of divey bar. I told the owners that we might bring a gay group, and they got totally excited. It appears that most of the world is now catching on to the fact that gay travelers often spend more money than their straight counterparts.
Barbados is a former British colony, so the Bajans (the charming and beautiful people of Barbados) all speak English… and the accent is super hot! I’d give this a double-plus, not to mention that it seems like all the locals have nice curves in just the right places … so double-plus-plus!
Day 2: A Gay-er Barbados
We started our day with an industry roundtable, where we met with local vendors and representatives of the Barbados Tourism Authority who picked our “under 30” brains as to how to better sell Barbados as a luxury destination. I told them to start by making Barbados more gay-friendly and then publicizing this attribute. For example, they could start by working on Gay Marriage. Our hosts felt that some in their community are not yet be ready for a full embrace of gay visitors, but I was pleased to see that my observations started a needed discussion among Bajans as they ponder which areas in which to invest their marketing dollars in the future. My comments were well enough received that the conversation was quoted in the July 15th issue of Travel Agent Magazine.
Later in the day we got to escape the conference room and instead got to tour several beautiful Villas. I immediately thought of building a trip similar to our Puglia Villa and Biking tour in Italy, where we take travelers out on adventurous biking excursions every day and return to the luxurious villa for great food and wine each evening.
In the evening we had dinner in a beautiful Hilton property. I noticed a lot of locals walking through the hotel, and the host explained that all beaches in Barbados are public. So if a hotel builds on the water, they must provide public access to the beach. This created an interesting vibe with a mix of locals and visitors in an exclusive hotel.
Day 3: Safari, Clubbing, and Relaxing on the Beach
We started the morning with several tours of properties and villas, but the day really started getting exciting when we moved on to our Island Safari tour. We loaded into the backs of open Land Rovers and began barreling around Barbados. We drank “island punch” (mostly rum) and bounded all over the island, visiting Bajan historic sites and soaking up the natural beauty.
This was one of the more fun activities I took part in … even though I somehow ended up on the girl truck despite (or because of?) being the gay rep. Maybe they thought we would have more chances to do each others’ nails and makeup? (Sorry, that’s not my expertise!) My favorite part of this tour was when we went off-road to the edge of a huge cliff and dared each other to get too close to the edge. *shudder* I hate ledges … maybe that’s why it was so thrilling.
We drove down the side of the mountain and came across a beach with huge, amazing boulders sitting at the water’s edge. They were monumental, but I squished one of them!
Later our host from the Barbados Tourism Authority got us into a night club called Sugar, in a booth with private table service. They loaded us with high-quality drinks in a luxurious club setting I’ve never experienced before. I know my clients would love a visit here. We ended up dancing on lighted boxes, but eventually they decided that we were keeping the scantily clad hot girls from shaking their Bajan booties, so they kicked all the men off (even me, and I HAVE Bajan Booty!!)
We stayed up late, drinking on the beach and in the pool, having a genuine good time in a tropical paradise.
Day 4: Sea Turtles and Cliff-side Dining
This morning we got up for a booze cruise. This is the day that several of the 30-and-unders had been waiting for. Unlimited alcohol, food and music while on a catamaran. We have these in Key West where I live, and I generally avoid them, but I have to admit, this was really a lot of fun!
We sailed to the opposite side of the island where we anchored and went swimming with sea turtles. After a while our group swam to the beach … then eventually devolved into cock fights with women on the men’s shoulders trying to knock each other off. It was all very juvenile and loads of fun!
On our way back to the harbor, the whole ship broke into a song and dance routine that was very flash mob. I wonder if they do this every time?
Dinner tonight was at a resort town called the Crane. I loved the property! All the walls are made of coral, and they have the most beautiful pink sand beach. Crane has a perfect restaurant on the cliff with a private room featuring floor-to-ceiling windows for hosting an elegant dinner.
We met with several people who gave us ideas for vacation tour activities: touring and tasting at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery (how could we NOT go there?!), inland hiking, dinner on a submarine, catamaran cruises, island safaris, pirate cruises, exploring the Harrison Caves, taking an eco-tour, marveling at the 30,000 orchid varieties at Orchid World, scuba diving to an underwater art gallery, surfing, horse racing, motor rallying and more!!
While this event was not a gay event, I did find Barbados to be an amazing destination for me, and I can see the potential of creating a gay tour option there. I want to know … What do our readers think? Please take our 3-minute survey here. Your opinions will help me design a tour that YOU would enjoy!