Barbados’ tourism industry is meeting the challenges of the current economic climate head on.

This assertion came yesterday from Acting Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart, as he delivered the feature address at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Leadership Strategy Conference at Hilton Barbados.

Mr. Stuart said: "This country continues to work to diversify its tourism source markets by exploring new [destinations] in Europe, Latin America, and even China. At the same time, we are attempting to develop a new clientele, within the traditional source markets in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

"A great deal of work is being done to develop services out of both western USA and Canada, and we’re looking to develop further markets in the northern United Kingdom."

However, Mr. Stuart also indicated that on the regional front, the cost, reliability and connectivity of Caribbean airlift continued "to be a source of, and cause for, concern".

??In light of this, he stressed the importance of attracting and maintaining international airlift, noting that this was critical to the sector. Mr. Stuart further suggested that the eastern Caribbean needed better feeder connections to the southern and western Caribbean and Latin America, to provide equally efficient, and reliable inter connection opportunities for international airline passengers.

The Acting Prime Minister maintained that the current economic climate had taught tourism planners that no market was sacrosanct. He surmised that the adverse economic conditions could affect any country and any client "at any time". Consequently, he suggested that destinations like Barbados must be prepared to extract the highest possible benefit from economies that remain strong or have become strong, "wherever those economies may be".

Mr. Stuart warned that although regional states were concerned about the air passenger duty (APD), the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme was potentially even more devastating. He said the Scheme "aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, first by increasing the required fuel efficiencies of aircraft, and by discouraging the flying of unnecessary routes, or under patronised planes". These measures, he stated, would, "in the long term, even more seriously undermine tourism growth."

The Acting Prime Minister told the audience of regional delegates that Barbados had also been responsive to developments in the air transport sector and had sought to realise the opportunities to be derived from partnerships with two North American low-cost airlines. ??West Jet and JetBlue, currently offer year-round scheduled services into Barbados, with the latter offering a daily service.

Furthermore, he also disclosed that Barbados had been working with the Brazilian carrier GOL, and in June this year had commenced a weekly service out of Sao Paulo.

The acting Prime Minister disclosed that international transport was one of the challenges facing Small Island Developing States; with problems ranging from limited routes, uncompetitive pricing, inefficient airline operation.

The CTO conference concludes today.

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