Let’s target some new markets and work hard in the New Year
Fair competition is a wonderful thing and personally I don’t think it’s anything to fear. Hopefully soon the necessary operating licences will be granted and the prospects of seeing some reduction in the cost of intra Caribbean travel will become a reality.
And how exciting to see the international aviation registration of 8P emblazoned on a Barbados based aircraft and the generation of new on-island employment in this sector.
Even before REDJet takes commercially to the air, the limited competitors have already been galvanised into action. The Trinidadian carrier, Caribbean Airlines, taking half page newspaper ‘ads’ pointing out a choice of seat classes, complimentary drinks, meal or snack, in-flight entertainment and the fact that you can earn miles, amongst other possible differences or benefits. Ultimately, the consumer will have a choice, as to whether they prefer more affordable travel or the once almost standard perks.
There is no doubt that high airfares (and taxes), have had a detrimental effect on our regional visitor arrival numbers.
The introduction of WestJet and JetBlue has driven increased travel out of North America, without seemingly damaging the long established legacy carriers. In fact American Airlines have just added a new Dallas/Fort Worth non-stop service.
Travelers, especially during the current challenging economic times are becoming more price conscious. One example recently when some guests who live in Ontario, but crossed the border to fly with JetBlue out of Buffalo, because the airfare was considerable lower than either WestJet or Air Canada from Toronto.
There were at the time, some critics concerning the GOL/Varig flight from Sao Paulo, but in my humble opinion, it was the very best option available in every respect, choice of city, airline and type of aircraft. We need to explore the potential of new markets and anyone thinking that you can achieve this with full flights from inception, does not belong in the real world.
I still feel the ultimate success of the Brazilian flight will depend on a holistic approach, where we identify niche markets, involve our island neighbours and very importantly, cultivate trade linkages.
If I have one objective observation, it is a disappointment that we have not seen any trade delegations. While Barbados must be viewed as a tiny market, I am sure there are opportunities, especially in the agro processing area. A significant contribution from air freight charges could play a very important part in both the long term sustainability of this flight and increase in frequency.
Now, if I had a 2011 ‘wish list’ for new flight routes, it would look like this: 1) Ottawa; 2) Winnipeg; 3) Halifax; 4) Berlin; 5) Moscow; 6) Zurich; 7) Panama; 8) Costa Rica
Two of these may look a little out-of-reach, but in Great Circle distances Berlin is only nine hours away and Moscow less than twelve. All three Canadian cities could be seasonal and operated either by WestJet or AirCanada.
To end the column let me pay a tribute to all those involved in tourism who will sacrifice quality time with their families to ensure that our cherished visitors enjoy the best Christmas ever.