The leader of the agency that markets Barbados’ tourism has warned both airport and union officials that labour unrest at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) is bad for the island’s bread and better industry.
And Chairman of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) Alvin Jemmott wants cooler heads to prevail in the ongoing row.
Some 100 airport workers staged a near three-hour strike today in an attempt to force GAIA to pay a 3.5 per cent rise which the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) claims is owed to the employees, but which the airport denies it owes.
Indications were the protest action did not affect incoming or outgoing flights, but the union has also warned that unless management relents, things would get worse.
In an interview last night ahead of today’s protest action, Jemmott pleaded with both sides to exercise patience because the country could ill afford a strike in the important tourism industry.
“I have seen indication that the Minister of Tourism himself has every intention of intervening and I hope for the absolute best. We as a country cannot afford it at this time,” said Jemmott on the sidelines of a cocktail reception to show off the upgraded KPMG headquarters in Hastings, Christ Church.
“We have had too much of a good year leading into this winter to have any type of disruption. And I am hopeful and would be very pleased if the best result is found.
“Let patience prevail and let all your hearts be settled because at the end of it all this is our country and we really can’t cut your nose to spoil your features,” pleaded Jemmott, the general manager of Divi Southwinds.
The Central Bank said last week in its review of Barbados’ economic performance for 2015 that tourism was the only sector to record measurable growth and that its “stellar performance” was mainly responsible for the 0.5 per cent growth in the economy.
Between noon and 3:45 p.m. today over two dozen flights from regional and international destinations were expected to arrive at GAIA, with eight flights scheduled to depart. A total 47 flights were scheduled to land and 44 were scheduled to take off.
January is normally the busiest month at GAIA, with over 214, 000 passengers passing through the airport in January 2015, up from 201,100 in January 2014.
The local tourism sector already has to come to grips with the threat of the Zika virus, with some carriers and hotel chains announcing that they would waive cancellation or change fees for pregnant women booked to travel to the countries against which the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued travel warnings.
Jemmott said, “an epidemic or pandemic is never a good thing for a tourism dependent destination” and stressed that tourism stakeholders here were taking the
“I know that the tourism officials, the health officials and the stakeholders they are all coming together and seeing if there are best practices that we would have learned from dealing with previous events to see how we can use those best practices to mitigate any loss,” he said.
Earlier this week chief executive officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Sue Springer told Barbados TODAY hoteliers and health officials were being proactive in their efforts to mitigate the impact of Zika on the tourism industry, by putting preventive and control measures in place at their facilities.