Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner is not expecting any improvement in the number of visitors coming to Barbados from the CARICOM market any time soon.
And she blamed high airfares and a lack of competition for that, as well as for the falloff in arrivals last year.
For the first nine months of 2014, visitor arrivals from the CARICOM dipped 10.8 per cent, compared to a decrease of 8.3 per cent from Europe, 3.5 per cent from Canada and 2.7 per cent from the United States.
“It is unfortunate because it is sometimes probably cheaper to go to New York than it is to go to Jamaica. Intra regional travel, as the Prime Minister described, is a bugbear and we are, as a country, working to see how we could rationalize that anomaly,” she said at a media briefing at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday.
“But again, that is a problem which is longstanding and I don’t know that in any immediate future we are going to see much of a change or turnaround in that because there is only one airline. There is no competition.”
Earlier this week, businessman Robert Pitcher blamed regional governments for the falloff in CARICOM travel over the years, saying that the taxes were too high, while noting that in some cases it was cheaper to purchase a ticket from Barbados to Canada than from Barbados to some Eastern Caribbean islands.
“Regional travel is too expensive,” he lamented.
However, Sandiford-Garner dismissed that suggestion, saying that while fares were high they were not necessarily as a result of Government taxes.
She said it was more an issue of efficiency.
“I think that there are other exigencies that we probably need to examine including efficiency in our operations,” she said.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart also expressed concern about the cost of regional travel earlier this week.
Despite the decline in the number of CARICOM arrivals, that market remains the island’s third largest behind the United Kingdom and the