Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy is reporting that the industry in Barbados remains buoyant, even in the face of global uncertainty.
In fact, he said the island had recorded a 17 per cent increase in visitor arrivals from the United States market for the year so far compared to the same period last year, and he attributed much of that to the partnership the island has with low-cost US-based carrier JetBlue.
Sealy made the comments as he addressed a media briefing at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Cenre, following a courtesy call on his office by officials of the airline.
With the island set to get a total of about 190,000 JetBlue seats this year, Sealy said the carrier continued to contribute significantly to the island’s tourism product and the partnership between Barbados and the airline was a very important one.
That relationship began about eight years ago, with just one flight a day out of New York. Today, there are as many as three flights daily.
“So, we are in a very good place and therefore this relationship, this partnership, I can say in all sincerity, is a meaningful one and would have fueled the growth that we are seeing, particularly out of the US market,” said Sealy.
“This growth that we are seeing from JetBlue is accruing in a point in time when airlines have been more about protecting their yields, which means they are just holding on to what they have and not venturing out into anything new, but JetBlue has been prepared to work with us,” he added.
The Tourism Minister also reported that the Canadian and Caribbean markets remained very strong. The United Kingdom market registered a moderate increase which Sealy said was “particularly encouraging” given “all the problems, politically and economically” in that country.
“So, overall, tourism is in a good place. The investment in the sector is strong and that has a lot to do again with our airlift situation,” he noted, adding that building out the accommodation sector also played an integral role in the performance of the industry.
Without giving details, Sealy said some “hardcore business” was discussed with the airline representatives during the courtesy call, as well as “realities” related to the routes and how some aspects of the business could be enhanced or tweaked.
Senior Vice President of Airline Planning at JetBlue, Scott Laurence told journalists the courtesy call came at this time because the airline was reviewing its performance in Barbados and wanted to optimize its service.
“I think there is opportunity for continued investment on our part, and I think that the brand that Barbados has developed in the US and the brand that JetBlue has developed really juxtapose very nicely.
“As we continue to look at the capacity increase, the first piece we are looking forward to is the restoration of daily flights to Fort Lauderdale, as well as optimization of our connections to points in the US,” said Laurence.
The flights out of Fort Lauderdale will resume in December, he added.