Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (FP)

Barbados’ way out of the recession will be dependent on the performance of the tourism industry, and Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, believes that this winter season will see a turn around in these difficult times.

Speaking this morning at a press conference held at Ocean 2, Dover, Christ Church, Mr. Sealy provided an update following his recent trip to the World Travel Market (WTM) in the United Kingdom and projections for the winter 2012-2013 tourist season.

"…The winter season will be an improvement on where it was last year.?? There were a number of encouraging developments coming out of WTM," he revealed, but also acknowledged that the closure of the tour company XL Leisure Group and the repositioning of British airline BMI had negatively affected the industry.

However, despite these challenges, the Tourism Minister stressed that tour operators such as TUI and Tropical Sky had reported favourable numbers and the sector’s resilience remained evident in its airlift.?? He said: "Our flights are intact…we will have 10 flights from British Airways during the winter season; up from seven…

"Virgin Atlantic is also maintaining its schedule of nine flights a week…That is also very encouraging, considering both of those carriers have been reducing capacity into the Caribbean." ??He added that these were all dedicated, unsubsidised flights to the island.

In addition, he promised that efforts would continue to bolster these existing flights, pointing out "we continue to speak to other players in the market in terms of trying to get some charters going. TUI UK has responded [and] there is a cruise and stay programme that we start in December and that will see four flights a week coming into Barbados.?? Sixty per cent of the flights will be for cruise passengers but 40 per cent will be long stay [visitors]… Three of those four flights are coming from gateways outside of London," Minister Sealy explained.??

He also noted that with the UK as Barbados’ most significant source for tourists, efforts would continue to explore new gateways within this and other existing source markets, with plans to bring a flight out of Glasgow or Belfast, Scotland, for the winter 2013 season in the works.

Mr. Sealy said that "the U.S. market was holding its own as well, with three American Airlines flights daily… The Jet Blue service also continues. That has worked extremely well for us… [It was] unfortunate that the Dallas flight could not continue… I sincerely hope that at some point we can return to the Midwest or west coast," he declared.?? He also acknowledged the continued service out of Charlotte, North Carolina with US Airways; and Canada’s promising market growth thanks to West Jet, with close to 80 000 visitors per year, adding to North America’s positive figures.

Further afield, Mr. Sealy underscored that the weekly GOL flight from Brazil, despite its modest arrivals, was a worthwhile investment towards creating Barbados’ brand awareness and exploring the Latin American market, with hopes that a flight to Panama City with COPA Airlines could be made a reality as soon as next year.

He added that the European market, too, was also making a valuable contribution to Barbados’ tourism sector. "The TUI Nordic flight, that was so successful last year, it was coming in bi-weekly…There will be another bi-weekly flight from Helsinki, Finland…The bookings so far have been in the 70’s, but there’s still time to get it up to the 90’s," he explained, adding that there were also plans for a third flight out of Denmark in 2014.

Adding that persons from that market were known for longer stays, higher spend and an appreciation for smaller, indigenously-owned properties, this, Mr. Sealy said, could only augur well for the sector.

In reference to Barbados’ third largest market, CARICOM, the Minister lamented that "we are still feeling the pinch from the demise of RedJET," but added that he continued to hope for a provider which would facilitate affordable, intra-regional travel.


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