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RON IN COMMON – More opportunities to travel north

ERIC SMITH, [email protected]

RON IN COMMON – More opportunities to travel north

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YOU ONLY HAVE TO make the first trip and then it is almost contagious. You want to go again and again. So little wonder an increasing number of Barbadians are simply taking to the skies whenever they can. 

Two periods coming up will prove this point as hundreds of people will be leaving the island, whether for rest and relaxation; to do some shopping, or simply to take a break and see a city bigger than Bridgetown and enjoy first hand a lot of what they are now being fed daily via US television.

Mark these periods on the calendar – March 24 to 28 and April 28 to May 2.

The first is the Good Friday-Easter holiday which can be a dreadfully quiet and even boring period if you stay in Bim. Remember it is a long weekend, with Friday of one week and the Monday of the following as non-working days for most people. 

For those not into church on Good Friday or perhaps out flying kites with the little ones, it is really a time for rest and relaxation. The Saturday will break up things a little with some shopping primarily in the farmers’ markets as people prepare for Easter.

Now even if you are not into church, that Sunday is the one day of the year most Bajans will grace a place of worship. Once upon a time, people would relish the  following day, a bank holiday to go picnicking  or having some fun and frolic in whatever manner. Oh yes, it is the period  of the annual Oistins Fish Festival, but to be quite honest, this event has lost much of its appeal and is indeed of a major refresh.

But, you know Barbadians want something to do at that time by the number of them who will head out of the island to spend the weekend in some other Caribbean nation, from Georgetown to St John’s and in between. Unfortunately, Kingston has really never been on the radar in this regard.

So even with LIAT’s prices of US$386 to go to Trinidad for the five days and hotels averaging US$130 per night in Port of Spain, this is about the minimum any intra-regional traveller should expect to spend on these two items.

Of course the other things from ground transportation to food have to be added on. That is perhaps why many people go as part of social clubs, sporting associations or some other organisations. They can bargain for better prices and even stay outside of the hotels.

But the truth is that unless you are going to participate in a group activity such as the commercial or central banks which may have their inter-bank competitions or amongst regional customs officers where there will be lost of organised activities, you should think twice if you are simply venturing on your own.

Barbados may be quiet at Easter; most of the other islands based on past experience are nothing less than ‘dead’. An experience in Grenada was a turn off and Trinidad not much better, with the exception of travelling from Port of Spain to San Juan by taxi – a hair raising experience. Never again.

That is why the savvy Bajan traveller is looking further north, to the USA. On the New York route there is competition and it is working to the advantage of the traveling public. A trip to New York at Easter could come as cheap as US$533 for the same five days while there is so much more to see and do.

Hotels in New York City are not cheap so if you don’t have a relative in Brooklyn or one of the other boroughs to bunk up with then you need to find an affordable hotel in the heart of the action.  The choices range from The Hotel Pennsylvania to any of the Garden Inn- Hilton or Holiday.

You are near Macy’s and not far from Broadway and close to the Empire State Building and if you want to go to church on Easter, well there is a range from Episcopal to Methodist to Roman Catholic. Yes, it will cost a little more money, but there is so much on offer, including a possible day trip to Philadelphia or up to Boston.

It is obvious Bajans know what and where they want to go. Take the April 28 to May 2 period. It will be a time to celebrate National Heroes and Labour Day, but the reality is that Bajans will be minding their own business and looking to their own celebration. And what better way to do it than make a trip to the USA. To be exact to Fort Lauderdale where JetBlue will be inaugurating a new service. The Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association will be looking for a lot of visitors coming in from that hub.

Well look for a lot of Bajans going and coming, too. At US$318 approximately, the airfare is a good deal. The hotel prices aren’t anything like New York and for Barbadians looking for a bargain, well you can bet they will be in Sawgrass Mills in their numbers, some will be checking out Las Olas Boulevard and those looking at the high end of things will be seen at The Galleria. A day trip to Disney is very possible.

To prove the point, JetBlue is sold out on the April 28 flight and the return one on May 2 as well. Most Barbadians going north would prefer not to have to deal with MIA (to be perfectly clear- Miami International Airport) which makes FLL the airport of choice in Sothern Florida.

The travellers should all gain from these developments. LIAT and Caribbean Airlines will have to become competitive and hotels across the region will also have to look at their pricing. Dr Delisle Worrell should not be surprise to see a rise, even if miniscule, in the use of foreign exchange.

So all like now people will be asking the taxi drivers, family and friends at hotels and duty free establishments to exchange a few US dollars. The only drawback is that the Customs officers will be there waiting patiently to get some money for the government’s coffers. Please, keep your receipts for everything you purchase.

I expect an increase in movement of Bajans this year as the dream of traveling will becomes a reality for many more.

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