Tourism is feeling the pressure at almost every juncture of the economic woes.
I am not sure how many people saw the article in the Daily Beast this week, where it is quotes, “American Airlines, the Ft. Worth-based international air carrier, may have already had its worst week ever – and it’s only Tuesday. The airline has been operating in bankruptcy since November and has suffered a series of public relations and operational black eyes in just the last few days.”
This type of news is not comforting for us here in Barbados at all. American Airlines is our major carrier out of the USA and the USA represents more than 25 per cent of our arrivals into the island. If that does not make you nervous then I don’t know what will.
Airlift is one of the most critical components of the tourism industry. Without our airlift capacity, the results will be simple – our industry will fail. Throughout the history of our tourism industry, we have been extremely fortunate to sustain good airlift capacity. Over the last couple years I have heard many criticisms as to why we need to invest so heavily in protecting air seats and diversifying our markets. I believe that we have been taking the right approach.
My position has always been that we have no control over any of the airlines. To this end, I do not believe that we can be over reliant on any one of them. I have no problem with loyalty, but when it comes the airlift capacity, the stakes are simply too high to put all of our eggs into one basket.
I know that we have been under pressure in trying to sustain our tourism industry before, but I can’t remember being under this type of pressure for such a sustained period of time. The pressure is not only here, it seems to be everywhere and thus far, I can say that I have not heard anyone with the magic prescription to relieve it. Only this week I heard my counterparts in St. Lucia raising concerns about the cost of doing business in the sector; this is in relation to the addition of a value added tax, and they too have to make some tough choices.
In another conversation this week, the discussion centred on how our industry has changed over the last 10 years, the things that we used to take for granted are no longer what they use to be. If there was ever a time for all of us to work together to sustain our industry that time is now. We have to continue looking for new ways to generate business, costs have to be monitored very carefully and our service must be uncompromising.
*Tourism is our business, let us play our part