TOURISM MATTERS: Some UK, US airlift options
VERY FEW BUSINESSES PRESENT as a constant a challenge as the airline industry. It only seems a twinkle ago that controversy hit the media over the sale of the valuable Heathrow slots by the now defunct BWIA, for what many felt was an under-valued five million pounds to British Airways in 2006. In 2011, the current Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar commissioned a forensic management audit which concluded that a fair market value for the slots then ranged from 23 million pounds to 44 million in a report dated May 8, 2012.
Then, with a blaze of glory in 2012, it was announced that BWIA’s replacement, Caribbean Airlines, was going to return to London, but this time flying into Gatwick. Last week, according to Airways News.com, Caribbean Airlines will return its Boeing 767 fleet to lesser International Lease Finance Corporation, during the first quarter of 2016, axing the Gatwick route and these aircraft will join the Air Canada Rouge fleet soon after.
This year, Caribbean Airlines has already returned two Boeing 737-800 aircraft with two more set to go soon. This will reduce the fleet to 12 B737s while retaining all five ATR 72 equipment. Since the rebirth of the carrier, it has been difficult to follow what, if any, substantial part they played in supplying airlift to Barbados, specifically for inbound tourism and I probably am not alone in thinking that we as a destination do not have the best of working relationships with them. Can this be changed or improved on specific routes, perhaps with a Barbados/Fort Lauderdale service or would this further alienate the existing legacy and low cost airlines?
With lower fuel costs and operating costs out of Fort Lauderdale airport, this may offer a more competitive route than Miami, especially if Caribbean Airways could smart-partner with other United States (US)-based low cost carriers to offer attractive seamless connecting cities. And, as well as the obvious domestic (continental North America) possibilities, could we use such a service to grow more arrivals out of Europe? Norwegian Airlines fly non-stop from Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen to Fort Lauderdale. Imagine if Caribbean Airlines code shared with this aggressive low carrier.
Norwegian has already shown a commitment to the Caribbean with new seasonal services from JFK, Baltimore and Boston to Guadeloupe and Martinique starting in December. An arrangement with Caribbean Airlines could provide a litmus test vehicle to guage the interest in other regional destinations. As they say, there is a world of possibilities.
To combat the falling value of the Canadian dollar, we had planned to launch an attractions/activities/car rental verion of our re-DISCOVER voucher, which would exclusively offer ‘Canucks’ a ten per cent discount on strictly direct bookings. Sadly, of over 100 tourism entities contacted, only five agreed and pursuing it was simply not fiancially feasible.
We have not yet seen a decline in Canadian visitors this year but it is noteworthy that travel from Canada to tbe US is down substantially. Maybe if this trend continues to affect other destinations, our indsutry might revisit the possibility of inclusion.