Thomas Cook passengers who were booked to stay at hotels in Barbados prior to the airline’s collapse are in line for a discount at those properties should they decide to still visit.
In addition, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds said officials would be seeking to woo the additional 150,000 affected Thomas Cook travellers.
During a media conference on Tuesday at his Warrens, St Michael office, Symmonds said members of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) were engaged in discussions as they fine-tuned a Barbados Cares campaign to offer the discounts.
He explained that under that campaign, officials would be reaching out to the UK market “to say to those Thomas Cook passengers whose vacation has been dislocated, that they are still welcomed to come to Barbados, that we understand the difficulty of the circumstances they are facing, and that we are offering them a vacation nonetheless, but in circumstances where we are going to be discounting”.
Symmonds said the exact figure of the discount was not yet decided but it was a surety “because the simple philosophy is that it is better to have the business even at a discount than not to have the discount at all”.
And with between 150,000 and 180,000 Thomas Cook passengers set to be reimbursed for vacation packages based on protection under the Civil Aviation Authority, Symmonds said local authorities will be seeking to entice them to still take their vacation, but in Barbados.
“Once those people are able to be reimbursed they still have an intention of going on a vacation, there is still a likelihood that they will want to go on vacation, and Barbados is reaching out to them even though they have not chosen Barbados necessarily as plan A, but we are saying to them ‘you can make Barbados the alternative’,” he said.
Boasting that Barbados was the only Eastern Caribbean country to have positioned itself to accommodate the displaced vacationers and to safeguard against any major fallout from the airline’s failure, Symmonds said the country could not afford to lose out at this time.
He stated that there “may have been” some hotels that were expecting over 60 per cent of their winter bookings to come from Thomas Cook.
Without identifying the hotels or how much they stood to lose, he said it would be a tragedy for them to lose out on an estimated 150 or more seats from the Thomas Cook group, which would also have implication for the job security of hotel workers.
“It is of substantial financial value to those hotels and those hoteliers and to their staff and to their staff’s family that we put ourselves in a position where we can, as best as possible, respond in a way that is sensitive so as to, with great urgency, protect those winter bookings,” he said.
“That is the reason we have acted with the level of alacrity that we did. It is the reason why the director of the UK (Cheryl Carter) and myself knocked on the doors during the course of last week while others were slumbering because we felt it was vitally important that we protect the destination that we have the mission to guard,” said Symmonds.
Barbados has secured some 30,000 additional seats from Virgin Atlantic. That airline has agreed to fill that void left by the Thomas Cook group’s failure.