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Stuart airs travel concerns

Mike King

Stuart airs travel concerns

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ACTING Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is concerned about the cost, reliability and connectivity of Caribbean airlift.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s (CTO) Leadership Strategy Conference at Hilton Barbados yesterday morning, Stuart was worried about limited routes, uncompetitive pricing, inefficient airline operations and, as a result, inconvenienced passengers.
“We may take as an example the fact that many places in the northern Caribbean are accessible primarily from the south only by way of Miami; and that the Eastern Caribbean is still largely cut off from the Western and Southern Caribbean and almost totally cut off from Latin America, our closest neighbours.
“It is quite clear from this that the Eastern Caribbean is in need of a more efficient and reliable regional feeder service that will not only connect it to the Western and Southern Caribbean and Latin America, but also provide equally efficient and reliable interconnection opportunities for our international airline partners,” he said.
Stuart was of the view that the feeder service needed to feature baggage policies, reservation systems and “a level of operational reliability that facilitates seamless interconnection between regional and international services”.
Before an audience that included tourism officials, the diplomatic corps, and British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh, Stuart noted that international transport was one of the main challenges faced by small island developing states in the development of their tourism sectors.
“How to move potential visitors from their home countries to the destination and back in a timely and efficient manner continues to challenge the ingenuity of our tourism planners.
“In today’s fast-paced world, a high premium is placed on time.
“The length of time taken to travel to and from the vacation spot can, conceivably, influence the choice of destination.
“Vacation time is today measured in hours and days and not in the weeks and months of a more leisurely period in days of yore,” he said.Stuart spoke about the attraction and maintenance of airlift.
“Experts in the field will all agree that securing airlift, while important, does not absolve actors in the industry of the obligation to use their best endeavours to ensure that that airlift is maintained.”
Stuart mentioned that Barbados had been responsive to developments in the air transport sector, adding that two of North America’s low-cost carriers, WestJet and JetBlue, currently offer year-round scheduled service into Barbados, with JetBlue offering daily service.
“If the current economic crisis has taught tourism practitioners anything, it is that no tourism source market is sacrosanct. Adverse economic conditions can affect any country and any client at any time.
“Destinations like ours must be prepared therefore, to extract the highest possible benefit from economies that remain strong or have become strong, wherever those economies may be,” he said.
Stuart said that Barbados was continuing to work to diversify its tourism source markets by exploring new markets in Europe, Latin America and even China, and at the same time was attempting to develop a new clientele within the traditional source markets – the United States, Canada and Britain.