‘Government intends to do all it can to keep airfares affordable for Caribbean people traveling throughout the region’
That assurance was given by Minister of Tourism Noel Lynch during an interview which was carried in the Daily Nation on 5th February 2007 under an article headlined ‘Air Vow’ by Julia Rawlins-Bentham.
The Minister ‘warned that if airlines only flew to destinations that were considered economical, the movement of travellers in the region could be significantly retarded’.
He went on ‘we’re going to rationalise a low expense so that we can keep the rates manageable and affordable for Caribbean people to travel regionally’.
‘The region would either have to accept rates based on the true economic cost, or affordable rates with the cost of airline operations being subsidised. What that form of subsidisation can be is the same way we do things like marketing support… with everybody else like British Airways or Delta, but be very clear that if people went on strictly economic terms, there are a lot of people in the region who would not (be able to fly)’, Lynch said.
So three months later, where are we?
Intra regional airfares are probably the highest they have ever been in our history.
Virtually every national Tourist Board and Hotel and Tourism Association in the region has spoken out about the escalating airfares.
And only this week the head of the 32 country member Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Vincent Vanderpol-Wallace, described the record high costs of travelling short distances by air as the ‘silent killer’ to regional tourism.
So, what is Minister Lynch, as one of three key figures representing the taxpayers of Barbados, Antigua and St. Vincent and their interests in LIAT, going to do about the situation?
And equally important, when is the Minister going to demonstrate that his bold words are more than rhetoric, before we start to see the closure or yet more hotels in Barbados and across the region?
Last year, the Caribbean was Barbados’s third most important market, bringing us a higher number of long stay visitors than Canada.
We are in severe danger of losing a substantial portion of this market which has been the only significant market that has repeatedly above inflation growth.
23 May 2007