TOURISM MATTERS: My 2017 wish list
Not to have a wish list in the first column of a new year would just look wrong. With this in mind, here are my suggestions, which are not necessarily in any particular order of realisation.
Every indication tells us that the United Kingdom market is going to present challenges in 2017. Currency devaluation, the effects of Brexit, the price of aviation fuel and forecasted inflation will all limit the capacity of many Brits to splurge on a long-haul holiday.
One of the ways we can cushion higher overall package holiday prices is to help make the overall experience less expensive by making it easier for our visitors to reach us. We could negotiate with airlines like Virgin to partner with their train division and offer either free or reduced rail fares for people taking Barbados bound flights.
Likewise, a “Barbados rate” could be negotiated for airport overnight stays at one or more hotels to produce volume in return for higher occupancy and passing on the savings to our customers.
Manchester Airport especially does a tremendous job by informing passengers on a regular email basis of special offers with everything from airport parking to currency exchange.
We also need more co-operative smart partnerships like the re-DISCOVER initiative. The main objective is to get people to our shores and we have to understand that where they choose to stay, eat and which car hire company they use, is their choice and there is only so much individual tourism partners can do to influence this.
We seem to have done a lot to successfully increase airlift, notably from the United States. I believe there is still enormous further potential. From Canada, a direct nonstop service from Calgary or Edmonton has been discussed for decades. However, as a past on-and-off resident of Winnipeg, to me, that city seems a more realistic target.
Extended winters, limited destination choice when compared to other population centres like Toronto, become powerful marketing tools.
Of all the component countries that make up the United Kingdom, proportionately Scots travel more than residents or England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Glasgow Airport has recently announced that it will be building a rail station right next to the terminal, making it easier and less expensive to use the facility.
Scotland has a lower rate of air passenger duty and there have been discussions to eliminate it altogether.
And what a lot of people tend to forget, is that Glasgow is in fact is closer to Barbados than Gatwick, eliminating the need for a 700-mile round trip to a London airport and/or overnight hotel stays.
So a Glasgow direct flight would be high on my priorities, initially just once a week, to also dovetail with cruise ship opportunities.
Sadly, over the years we have lost market share from Scandinavia, mostly through lack of airlift.
Ultimately, I think we will persuade Norwegian Air to operate a direct service to Barbados. Barbadian prices do not scare visitors from Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden and history tells us they usually have longer stays.
Until a nonstop flight can become a reality, we have this incredible opportunity to work with two airlines who already code share very successfully by forging seamless connections from Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm through Fort Lauderdale with JetBlue and Norwegian.
None of these wish list items are beyond a concerted effort by all involved.