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TOURISM MATTERS: Carriers make travel more affordable

TOURISM MATTERS: Carriers make travel more affordable Adrian Loveridge

By ADRIAN LOVERIDGE | Tue, December 21, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Fair competition is a wonderful thing and, personally, I don’t think it’s anything to fear. Hopefully, the necessary operating licences will soon be granted and the prospects of seeing some reduction in the cost of intra-Caribbean travel will become a reality.

And how exciting it is to see the international aviation registration of 8P emblazoned on a Barbados-based aircraft and the generation of new on-island employment in this sector.

Even before RedJet takes commercially to the air, its competitors have already been galvanised into action. Trinidadian carrier Caribbean Airlines has been taking out half-page newspaper ads pointing out a choice of seat classes, complimentary drinks, meal or snack, in-flight entertainment and the fact that you can earn miles, amongst other possible differences or benefits.

Ultimately, consumers will have a choice as to whether they prefer more affordable travel or the once standard perks.

There is no doubt that high airfares (and taxes) have had a detrimental effect on our regional visitor arrival numbers.

The introduction of WestJet and JetBlue has driven increased travel out of North America without seemingly damaging the long-established legacy carriers.

In fact, American Airlines has just added a new Dallas/Fort Worth non-stop service.

Travellers, especially during the current challenging economic times, are becoming more price-conscious. There was one example recently when some guests who live in Ontario crossed the border to fly JetBlue out of Buffalo because the airfare was considerably lower than either WestJet or Air Canada from Toronto.     

At the time, there was some criticism concerning the GOL/Varig flight from Sao Paulo, but in my humble opinion it was the very best option available in every respect, choice of city, airline and type of aircraft.

We need to explore the potential of new markets and anyone who thinks you can achieve this with full flights from inception does not belong in the real world.

I still feel the ultimate success of the Brazilian flight will depend on a holistic approach where we identify niche markets, involve our island neighbours and, very importantly, cultivate trade linkages.

I have one observation and it is disappointment over not seeing any trade delegations.

While Barbados must be viewed as a tiny market, I am sure there are opportunities, especially in the agro-processing area.

A significant contribution from air freight charges could play a very important part in both the long-term sustainability of this flight and increase in frequency.

Now, if I had a 2011 “wish list” for new flight routes, it would look like this: 1. Ottawa 2. Winnipeg 3. Halifax 4. Berlin 5. Moscow 6. Zurich 7. Panama and 8. Costa Rica.

Two of these may look a little out of reach, but in great circle distances, Berlin is only nine hours away and Moscow less than 12.

All three Canadian cities could be seasonal and operated either by WestJet or Air Canada. I want to end this week’s column by paying tribute to all those involved in tourism who will sacrifice quality time with their families to ensure that our cherished visitors enjoy the best Christmas ever.

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