Government is considering inviting representatives of the wholesale sector in South America to Barbados, so that they can witness first-hand what the island???s tourism product has to offer.
This was one of the suggestions arising out of discussions last Tuesday between Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COPA Airlines, Pedro Heilbron, in Panama City.
The wholesale sector is sometimes referred to as the ???middleman??? between travel agents and travel suppliers. This sector sources product, negotiates rates and creates the product for travel agents to sell.
Mr. Stuart, who was accompanied at the meeting by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean; Barbados’ Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States, John Beale; as well as other government officials, reminded Mr. Heilbron that Barbados had ???a very old relationship??? with Panama, which went back to the construction of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s.
As a consequence, he added, the island had a significant diaspora of descendants in the Central American nation, and therefore wished to develop that relationship.
???This also matters much in terms of an overall plan to deepen relations with Panama and Central and South America. All intelligence suggests that the best way Barbados can contemplate this is through a business relationship with COPA,??? Mr. Stuart stressed.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Barbados already had a framework in place to facilitate air links and encourage trade and investment between the two countries, namely a Double Taxation Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding on Air Services, which both countries signed in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Edu-tourism, in the form of persons travelling to Barbados from Panama and other Latin American countries to be taught English, was also pinpointed as a possible market segment for exploration.
In response, Mr. Heilbron stated that he had not found any legislative obstacles to operating in Barbados, and that COPA was always interested in new markets. However, he noted that marketing studies would have to undertaken to determine the viability of adding Barbados to its schedule.
???Our main market to the Caribbean, about 55 to 60 per cent, is leisure tourists from South America, namely Chile, Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina. Business travellers make up about 45 per cent of our business,??? the CEO explained.
He recommended that Barbados present a new business case, which would include statistics on certain aspects of the island???s tourism industry, and look to engage the wholesalers from South America who generate traffic for COPA.
???Once the marketing studies have been completed, we are willing to re-open an analysis of your business case,??? Mr. Heilbron assured Prime Minister Stuart. He also promised to provide the Barbados delegation with a list of the top wholesalers with whom they did business.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, described Mr. Heilbron???s suggestions as ???a useful strategy to pursue???, and pledged that they would be expedited as a matter of urgency.
In the region, Copa Airlines currently flies to The Bahamas, St. Maarten, Jamaica, Haiti, Aruba, Cura??ao, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.