Barbados is being assured that Bridgetown will be a port of call for a new cruise line to be launched by British business magnate Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Bain Capital, the United States based global alternative investment firm.
Although Virgin Voyages is not expected to set sail on its maiden cruise before 2020, Sir Richard Wednesday left no doubt that Barbados will be on its itinerary.
“We will have a big, red Virgin Voyages ship coming to Barbados at some stage,” he announced to a packed audience at the Hilton Barbados Resort as he took part in the Virgin Group-led Business is an Adventure leadership conference.
The company last month started building its first ship, which is scheduled to set sail from Miami on seven-day Caribbean cruises.
The 110,000-tonne vessel will accommodate 2,800 guests and 1,150 crew.
The humanitarian and climate change enthusiast issued a stern word of caution to the authorities here to preserve the environment in order to protect the island’s bread and butter tourism industry.
He spoke of the importance of recycling and called for an “enormous” effort to safeguard turtles and other sea creatures, as well as reefs, as major tourist attractions.
“At the moment in Barbados the most important thing you have is tourism. Why do people come to Barbados? They come for its beauty and the species that are in the oceans off Barbados, and so a much greater priority should be put on that.
“On land, there is no question of the need for recycling,” he said, adding that he had recommended to the British Virgin Islands that prisoners “be allowed out on weekends to make the island really clean so that when people come from overseas they just feel great”.
“The environment should be big priority for these islands,” the Virgin founder stressed.
Sir Richard’s Virgin Atlantic airline currently flies to Barbados from Gatwick airport in London and Manchester in the north west of England.
The airline is scheduled to begin serving Barbados from Heathrow airport in London with a twice-weekly service – Tuesday and Saturday – from December 12, operated by a three-class A330 aircraft configured for 185 economy seats, 48 in premium economy, and 33 in upper class.
The new winter seasonal route will be the only direct link between Heathrow and Barbados.
The business magnate said while there continued to be concerns over Brexit and the likely impact it could have on travel to Barbados, Virgin Atlantic would not be daunted.
“We are doing Gatwick to Barbados [right now] and I am delighted to say we are also going to start Heathrow to Barbados flights at the end of the year,” he said.
“You can keep Barbados beautiful and we keep people coming,” Sir Richard added.