Is there some room for cautious optimism in our tourism performance?
Adrian Loveridge, tourism expert
Following 21 consecutive months of long stay visitor decline, January 2014 recorded a modest increase of 3.2 per cent when compared with the same month in 2013.
It is however important to keep this in absolute perspective…
January 2013 was down 8.2 per cent (4,331 people) when measured against January 2012 and unless we finish the end of February, 7,972 land based visitors up – we will still be woefully behind the identical period last year.
The growth largely came from the United Kingdom with 1,455 more long-stay visitors over the same period in January 2013. This in itself is encouraging because as frequently pointed out, the British and Europeans tend to stay longer – therefore usually contributing a higher per capita spend.
The higher UK arrivals were largely driven by two charter airlines.
Thomas Cook operating a new service and Thomson adding increased capacity with recently introduced B787 Dreamliner aircraft. Passengers off these flights would have included a significant number of cruise and stay holidaymakers, but both carriers offered many seats on sale at substantially reduced fares, which in some cases were less than GBPounds 300 return, including all taxes.
With such a diverse destination and a myriad range of accommodation options, these last minute ‘bargains’ present an opportunity to fill some beds at short notice.
Scheduled carrier Virgin Atlantic carried fewer passengers on the Gatwick service, but more from Manchester, while British Airways (BA) had a net gain. Again, to emphasis that these comparisons are all based on the differential between January 2013 and 2014.
Virgin’s numbers must also take into account dramatically reduced capacity as a result of equipment change from a daily B747 service to mostly the smaller A330 planes on the London route.
BA and Virgin also held an extended seat sale which expired on 28th January, with some of the lowest legacy fares available in the entire Caribbean for the remainder of 2014. Hopefully this resulted in substantial bookings, which will positively impact the arrival numbers later this year.
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