The aviation consultant who ran the Grantley Adams International Airport until he was replaced by the Mia Mottley administration last September has declared that Barbados and the Caribbean will have to market themselves differently as tourist destinations.
Neville Boxhill, principal consultant at Kusafiri Consulting, said the Caribbean can no longer depend on festivals, conferences and events to lure visitors to its shores.
He said the change was necessary post-COVID-19, as the pandemic had changed the entire business of travel.
Appearing in a virtual conference hosted Wednesday by the Caribbean Tourism Organization on The Role of Regional Airlines and Airports in Boosting Intra-Regional Travel in Light of COVID-19. Boxhill said: “It would be appropriate that we look at how we can further develop our Caribbean tourism because the thing about Caribbean tourism is that it is heavily focused on events, conferences, business meetings; all things that have been severely impacted by COVID-19.
“So while we need to relook and refocus on Caribbean tourism, we also need to rethink the business model that we have been applying in the Caribbean for many, many years.
“Our tourism focus for many years has been focused on not the Caribbean necessarily as a leisure destination in the way that we focused on the US and the UK, but more event-driven such as festivals. We encouraged people to come for festivals, we encouraged people to come for conferences and business meetings.
“Now we’ve had COVID-19 and pretty much all of the festivals have been cancelled. People are now meeting via Zoom, conferences are being done via Zoom in order to avoid travel, so here in the Caribbean, we need to refocus on encouraging people to come to our islands from other islands for leisure.
“Some people may see that as a difficult sell but I do think that there is potential.”
The aviation expert also called for regional airlines to reduce some of their fees to encourage travel.
While acknowledging those airlines had taken a hit due to being closed for the past few months, he said high fees would deter intra-regional travel.
He said: “I think hotels need to really reassess, I think Caribbean Airlines and LIAT also need to reassess and see what their prices are, whether their fees are still appropriate in this environment and the attractions also need to reassess, because we are in unprecedented circumstances and what was your primary market four months ago is not your primary market today.”
In April 2018, Boxhill was appointed chief executive officer of the state-run airport in the final months of the Freundel Stuart administration. He had acted in the position since 2017.
Head of Sales at Caribbean Airlines Lisa Morales Wilson told the conference that airlines were in desperate need of money.
Just one day ago, Caribbean Airlines reported it had recorded a loss of more than $28 million (US$14 million) in one month as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
Wilson said while travellers expected lower fares, it was challenging to do so at this time.