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Low cost airlines to the Caribbean

Making it or breaking it in tourism

Sep 04, 2009

It appears as if these could be exciting times for the region as more low-cost carriers express interest in entering our markets, which have for far too long been viewed as destinations only for
the more “mainstream” airlines.

Now that WestJet has seasonal flights from Canada to Barbados, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic, and Jet Blue and AirTran are soon to be added to the long list of airlines making rounds in Caribbean airspace, it is expected that not only would more tourists be willing to spread their wings and head down south to these shores during the colder winter months, but in addition, more locals will be heading up to brave the fall and wintry nights.

Jet Blue is expected to service Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St.Lucia and St. Maarten (plus Cancun, Costa Rica and Colombia), while AirTran may soon add flights to Nassau, Bahamas and Montego Bay from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando if its bid to head southward is successful.
With recent statistics indicating that airlines globally have been recording losses of US$1 billion every month since the beginning of the year, especially in the spring season; traditionally the time they record 50 per cent of their profits, the interest of these carriers in adding Caribbean islands to their service routes, in spite of this, says much about the interest in the sun, sea and sand market.

It is obviously still there. The question is what more can we do with our tourism product to ensure that prospective tourists click on Bridgetown as their intended destination.

I am all for these airlines heading to the islands, which will hopefully feed tourism sectors, upon which so many of our countries are dependent upon.

Maybe, it will be said that there are a few positive things that can result from the global economic downturn, where most consumers would only be interested in travelling if the price of a quality product is right.

Therefore, all-inclusive packages may be the way to go, especially in light of the low numbers most hotels have been experiencing in the last months.

It also calls for smart and original thinking in gaining these figures, which should not only be generated from those directly involved in the sector, but also members of the public who may possess a keen eye in looking outside of the proverbial box.

Nevertheless, I am still questioning the wisdom of our “Perfect Weather Guarantee”.

For those of you who are unaware, this initiative offered persons who had until June 7 to book a money-back guarantee if, during their stay on the island between May 28 and December 18, the temperature fell below 25°C or it rained more than 0.25”.

For each day of this kind of weather, that individual would be refunded $100.

The placement of this smack dab in our rainy season has raised not only my eyebrows, but those of several others, who wait interestedly to see how this pans out.

The truth of the matter is that all of the regional countries’ tourism sectors are feeling the pinch, however it is the type of product innovation and development we choose to use not only now, but during the hopefully soon-to-come upturn that will make or break our sector.

Making it or breaking it in tourism

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