Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is to head a delegation to Miami soon to meet with cruise line operators in hopes of further boosting Barbados’ fastest growing tourism niche.
In fact, the minister told stakeholders at the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s first quarterly meeting for the year this morning at Accra Beach Hotel that the delegation would comprise tourism as well as other officials.
This, he noted, was in light of the fact that increasingly cruise tourism was proving to be an area which destinations were going after in a singular approach.
“Cruise tourism still continues to be the fastest growing niche. Barbados’ cruise tourism sector must seek to improve its competitiveness with other destinations and can contribute even more meaningfully to the attainment of our general tourism development objectives.”
Reiterating Government’s intentions to construct a new cruise facility to greater position Barbados as the hub for that niche of tourism in the southern Caribbean, the minister noted that there were other destinations in the Windward Islands that relied heavily on cruise and were willing to work with Barbados towards strengthening that aspect the region.
This could lead to the establishment of new itineraries on which Barbados could capitalise, said Sealy, as he further underscored the importance of marketing.
“We have lost some market share recently, in part due to the singular marketing approach of destinations and that has been futile in terms of trying to maintain the major cruise lines. No single destination is an itinerary and therefore there is a need for us to do some hardcore marketing of some attractive packages for the cruise liners.
“The Caribbean destinations have already started some discussions and Barbados will in fact be hosting the other players in the southern Caribbean who are desirous of participating in that project. There is also the potential for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, not traditionally seen as a tourism destination.
“They want more tourism as well, but with the possibility of bunkering with their petroleum industry the vessels can do the bunkering over there and we can offer something really attractive to the cruise lines.”
Sealy added: “It is my intention to lead a delegation very soon to Miami to meet with the cruise lines and we will have Barbados Tourism Authority and Barbados Port Inc. going as part of a single delegation to try to promote that particular venture and to look at other cruise issues generally, … and I think we have some of our partners who have agreed to join us as well.”
While movement was happening in cruise, the tourism minister said there were also plans to review some of the air transportation into the island, given that now most airlines were expecting to be compensated by way of a formal agreement for seats lost when the flights were not full.
“Brazil is the largest player in Latin America from which we have been having the weekly Gol flight. The results have been encouraging in many respects. It is becoming clear that there are seasons when the Brazilians tend to travel most.
“What we have to do now is to take a thorough review of the entire arrangement. We are looking at Gol and that relationship, possibly other airline relationships.”
The link they were trying to secure with Panama City as a hub, could have possible spin-off links to Brazil and other countries in Latin America that could prove beneficial, Sealy stated.
“What I am saying is that we are looking at it. We know there is a cost involved in Gol, but there is a cost involved in almost all the flights now. There was a time when we did not have to pay for the American Airlines/New York flight but we had to put [an agreement] in place for that to make sure that it continued to fly because that is the reality.
“The fact is that we are reviewing that arrangement in the context of yes we do want more business from Latin America, it would probably make more sense to have the Panama City hub, but for the time being we are looking at all of the possibilities,” Sealy said. (LB)