Monday, December 26, 2011

Barbados: New flight set to increase tourism numbers

Besides the fact that it was Christmas Day, there was much more to be festive and excited about at the Grantley Adams international Airport as 184 passengers, along with seven crew members, stepped onto Barbadian soil following an inaugural luxury charter Air Transat flight from Canada, set to bring well over 3 000 visitors to the island over the winter season.

The Canjet airplane, which is flying to Barbados under the Canadian-based tour operator Transat Holidays at a capacity of 189 seats, will be bringing in passengers from one of Barbados’ most critical markets every Sunday stretching until April 2012.

Commenting that Transat is a “big player” Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, revealed that as a result of Barbados’ high quality tourism product coupled with aggressive marketing throughout different media in Canada, seats are selling well with flights currently booking in excess of an 80 per cent capacity.

“When we took over the Government in January 2008, I was asked to outline what we saw as the priorities and one of the principle ones for the sector was to get the appalling figures from Canada back up and I think we have succeeded in doing that because in 2007 we had just under 50 000 Canadians coming to our shores and in 2010, just under 80 000,” he stated, adding that he believes that the numbers can increase even further to similar visitor arrivals of the fruitful 1970’s and 80’s – when Canada was Barbados’ top-producing market.

Thus, he says that to achieve this, Barbados cannot only look to the scheduled operators, but also welcome the business of chartered flights.

“If we are to continue to see the needle go up as far as Canada is concerned, we need to have a relationship with Transat and I would like to commend everyone ... who worked hard to see that this became a reality,” he noted.

Additionally, the Minister was keen to stress that “it was a pleasure” negotiating with Transat and that “they did not ask for any money” such as a revenue guarantee arrangement or a seat subsidy.

“This is a coop-marketed programme that has formed the basis of this relationship. There is no money going to Transat from the purse by way of a direct subsidy … it is a diversified marketing programme with the use of billboards, magazine inserts and online, print and travel trade advertising so as to reach the widest possible audience and with load factors of in excess of 80 per cent, it is working,” he explained.

He further emphasised that he needed to share the specifics of this arrangement so that the public can know exactly what is happening with respect to this tourism initiative.

Meanwhile, Sealy revealed that there are plans under way to try to broaden the current Canadian target market to include more areas of the vast North American State “in the near future”.

Finally, Captain of the airplane, Dave Moore, spoke glowingly of the close connection between the two countries and noted that the warmth of the island’s people is a big draw for Canadians. 

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