In the 1980s Wardair could fill a 747 from Winnipeg to Barbados. Why can’t we do that now?
In a recent newspaper article entitled ‘Tourism Hope from Canada’ written by Gercine Carter, the outgoing Canadian High Commissioner for Barbados, Ruth Archibald, commented that she thought ‘there is lots of opportunity for continued growth’ out of that market.
Many of us would agree with her, especially when she ‘suggested that there was even more room for expansion in Western Canada’.
“In light of the potential, why is the Barbados Tourism Authority getting rid of its single BTA marketing executive in Western Canada?”
I immediately thought of my early travel industry years, almost four decades ago in Winnipeg, having been there partially during the pioneering days of Wardair.
In 1984 William Canning directed what I consider a truly inspirational documentary for the National Film Board of Canada, called simply ‘Max Ward’. You can view that film here. Part of it was shot in Barbados and if you get the opportunity to view the programme, please note particularly the Merrymen, Plantation dancers and an interview with the late Sir Harold St. John.
What it graphically brought back, was all that time ago, is that we had truly visionary leaders in this industry and how the decisions that they bravely took, changed our lives forever. Max, along with a rare breed of innovative aviation entrepreneurs like Sir Freddy Laker, fought long and hard for airline deregulation and when it finally came about, nothing would be quite the same in tourism ever again.
All these years later, one wonders if ‘we’ have not lost some of the goals or objectives that took us to, what has now become Barbados’s single largest foreign currency earner.
If even back then, Wardair was capable of filling a 456 seat B747 aircraft direct from Winnipeg, Edmonton or Calgary, to Barbados, so why can’t we now?
In fact, if anything it has become a lot easier, because today we have state-of-the-art, smaller capacity extended range planes with one third of the jumbo’s capacity, so the potential financial risk is a lot less. Direct flights from the Canadian prairies are also attractive in several other ways. Longer winters and the wealth created from tar sands, potash and the agricultural industries providing people with the time and financial means to travel.
Canadian farmers have money, and they are cold and bored in January!
The department of Natural Resources stated that ‘In 2011, potash was again Canada’s top ranking commodity by volume of production with shipments totalling CAD$8 billion’ and ‘volumes reached a new historical record, up 13.5 per cent compared to 2010’. Grain prices are hitting record highs as crop failures ripple around the globe and are likely to remain strong for at least three more years. The massive drought in the United States, compounded by a shortage of rain that has damaged wheat crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazkhstan.
‘Canadian farmers, stand to benefit enormously as grain supplies teeter on the verge of disaster’ according to the Globe and Mail.
Oil industry workers in Fort McMurray: Average household income – $169,000 Canadian dollars!
And thirdly, it’s easy to forget that Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world and 97 per cent of these reserves are in the oil sands. Fort McMurray, considered the centre of this industry, now boasts an average annual household income of over CAD$169,000.
So its not surprising that Ms. Archibald has highlighted the potential of this part of Canada. More than anything, it gives us the possibility to extend our peak and most profitable season by appealing to sectors of the economy that have been largely untouched by a global recession.
Bearing all these factors in mind, it is therefore somewhat bewildering that the contract for the single BTA marketing executive in western Canada is not being renewed. I think we should be told why.