IN A RECENT NEWSPAPER ARTICLE entitled Tourism Hope From Canada and written by Gercine Carter, the outgoing Canadian High Commissioner for Barbados, Ruth Archibald, commented that she thought “there is lots of opportunity for continued growth” out of that market.
Many of us would agree with her, especially when she suggested that “there was even more room for expansion in Western Canada”.
I immediately thought of my early travel industry years, almost four decades ago in Winnipeg, having been there partially during the pioneering days of Wardair.
In 1984, William Canning directed what I consider a truly inspirational documentary for the National Film Board Of Canada called simply Max Ward.
Part of it was shot in Barbados and if you get the opportunity to view the programme, please note particularly The Merrymen, Plantation Dancers and an interview with the late Sir Harold St John.
What it graphically brought back was that then, we had truly visionary leaders in this industry and the decisions they bravely took changed our lives forever.
Max, along with a rare breed of innovative aviation entrepreneurs like Sir Freddy Laker, fought long and hard for airline deregulation and when it finally came about, nothing would be quite the same in tourism ever again.
All these years later, one wonders if “we” have not lost some of the goals or objectives that took us to what has become Barbados’ single largest foreign currency earner.
If even back then, Wardair was capable of filling a 456-seat B747 aircraft from Winnipeg, Edmonton or Calgary direct to Barbados, why can’t we now?
If anything, it has become a lot easier, because today we have state-of-the-art, smaller capacity extended range planes with one third the jumbo’s capacity, so the potential financial risk is a lot less.
Direct flights from the Prairies are also attractive in several other ways. Longer winters and wealth created from tar sands, potash and agricultural industries provide people with the time and financial means to travel.
Canada’s Department of Natural Resources stated that “In 2011, potash was again Canada’s top-ranking commodity by volume of production, with shipments totalling CAN$8 billion (BDS$16 billion)” and “volumes reached a new historical record, up 13.5 per cent compared to 2010”.
Grain prices are hitting record highs as crop failures ripple around the globe and are likely to remain strong for at least three more years.
The massive drought in the United States was compounded by a shortage of rain that has damaged wheat crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
“Canadian farmers stand to benefit enormously as grain supplies teeter on the verge of disaster”, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.
Also, it’s easy to forget that Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world and 97 per cent of these reserves are in the oil sands. Fort McMurray, considered the centre of this industry, now boasts an average annual household income of over CAN$169 000 (BDS$338 135).
So it’s not surprising that Ms Archibald has highlighted this part of Canada’s potential.
More than anything, it gives us the possibility to extend our peak and most profitable season by appealing to sectors of the economy that have been largely untouched by a global recession.
Bearing all these factors in mind, it is therefore somewhat bewildering that the contract for the single BTA marketing executive in Western Canada is not being renewed, and I think we should be told why.