I hope ‘we’ have a plan.
In less than two months we will see the arrival of two new air services. Factually the return of one from Philadelphia (US Airways) and a brand new addition, JetBlue from New York!
There is no doubt in my mind that JetBlue aggressive pricing will drive new business, even though American Airlines were quick to match fares on certain routes. Competition has certainly worked with the arrival of WestJet from Canada.
But in many respects the United States for us, is a different market and even before the current global economic crisis, it has not really seen any significant or sustained growth over the last six years or so.
It’s been a great puzzle to me for sometime why an increasingly disproportionate percentage of the BTA annual budget is consistently spent on this market with no real growth achieved.
The CTO (Caribbean Tourism Organisation) figures speak for themselves. Long stay US visitor arrivals to Barbados were for 2003 (129,326), 2004 (129,664), 2005 (131,005), 2006 (130,767), 2007 (134,041) and 2008 (131,003).
US Airways return initially with four times a week from October and then daily from December using an Airbus 319 with 124 seat capacity. Depending what happens after the peak season this will add another 29,760 to 42,160 seats annually.
So nearly another 100,000 seats a year from a market that has not experienced a increase of more than 3,274 long stay visitor arrivals in in any one of the last six years.
A new advertising agency was appointed in North America early this year and maybe they have some spectacular plans that those of us in tourism are not aware of yet. Despite a late booking pattern, two months is still a very short window of opportunity and I really hope we can maximise this wonderful opportunity.
As someone that tries to follow tourism closely, I have frankly been surprised not to receive details inviting hoteliers and tourism players onto road shows, travel agency and tour operator visits or in fact any promotional activities that include the service providers to the JetBlue and US Airways gateways and connecting cities.