“I have always thought if we cannot entice 320 new visitors (two full B737-800 aircraft) a week out of a population of six million who live within an hour’s drive of Atlanta’s Hartsfield airport, then we have a problem.”
November tourism stats will tell all!
November, I believe, will be the first litmus test month of whether or not any changes that have been taking place over this year in the marketing of Barbados will indicate any recovery of long stay visitor numbers to our shores.
November 2013 recorded a total of 42,690 stay-over arrivals, which was the lowest for that month during the last 11 years. Three out of four major markets showed a decline, USA down 745, Canada down 49 and the UK down 56 persons.
2014 heralds the hosting of the fifth Barbados Food Wine and Rum Festival and by now there should be some effective way of measuring if this event has been growing sufficiently to ensure that the promotion funds ‘invested’ are producing a justifiable return on investment.
Clearly overall arrival numbers do not indicate this, or if they are, then it’s to the detriment of other periods of the month.
From next month Delta Airlines return from Atlanta and operate a new route from JFK/New York. These flights will provide an additional seating capacity of 640 passengers per week alone.
Air Canada will shortly change aircraft type to B777 on the Toronto service which adds over 1,000 seats each week if comparing with the smaller A319.
“Based on December 2013 arrivals figures (51,027 across all markets), which again were the lowest for that month in eleven consecutive years we need to record a near 37 per cent increase solely out of North America during December 2014, if we stand any hope of filling those extra seats.”
And that is before we even look at any added capacity that JetBlue or WestJet may have scheduled and a third weekly Montreal flight.
It is a very ambitious objective based on recent past performance and perhaps all is being gambled on the re-opening of Sandals possibly in late January 2015, which could fill about one third of the expanded volume, if every one of their guests originate from Canada/ United States, and that simply is not going to happen.
Of course not every additional passenger will be a stay-over visitor, as you have to allow for visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and in-transit traffic travelling to neighbouring islands.
So you then have to think what the likely cost to the taxpayer will be for any un-sold seats, as I am sure the operating airlines will not carry losses for any sustained period.
What is the plan?
With no new national marketing initiative currently on the table, what is likely to generate higher numbers?
Since my first visit years ago when I spent a week driving around Greater Atlanta studying the demographics, I have always thought if we cannot entice 320 new visitors (two full B737-800 aircraft) a week out of a population of six million who live within an hour’s drive of Hartsfield airport, then we have a problem.
And that’s ignoring the fact that it is presently the busiest airport in the world with unmatched connecting flight possibilities.
Surely we have the collective promotional ability and expertise to ensure that this third attempt does not end again in failure!