Barbados can expect close to 20,000 visitors to fly into the island this month, significantly down from its monthly average of well over 200,000.
That’s according to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc., Hadley Bourne who shared his outlook with Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
According to Bourne, the traditional Christmas arrivals are even higher, but because of the major blow to global travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers too, have been adversely impacted.
“Our regular numbers have been down by 90 to 95 per cent. Normally we would do roughly around 200,000 passengers a month. We are nowhere close to that. We probably…you never know, this month we may get close to 20,000 with the influx, but we are down significantly on our passenger numbers,” he declared.
“It is not our normal December crowd, but there seems to be a gradual uptake in passengers, especially since the lockdown in the UK market was lifted. But you would not have that normal December to January influx.
Meanwhile, the CEO dismissed reports circulating on social media that the airport will be transformed into a duty-free zone this weekend.
“There was a thought process of maybe initiating some commercial activity, having a duty-free zone, but nothing was concrete, nothing was finalized, but I guessed somebody just took it and ran with it. It is nothing that has approval. It was a concept that was being bandied about, but the necessary Government agency would have been required to approve it. None of that has happened to date,” Bourne told Barbados TODAY.
The top airport executive also sought to shed light on another event that is taking place at the GAIA this weekend which he believed people may have confused with the reported duty-free zone.
Bourne explained that it is an ongoing expo from Friday to Sunday where small retailers will get the opportunity to display their goods and services and make money.
He said the expo will be held between the car park and the public departure waiting areas.
‘It is a usual weekend thing where we encourage small entrepreneurs to come and sell craft and other novelty items to staff and the travelling public. The expo will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he said.
He also addressed yet another issue which could have caused a mix up with regards to a duty-free zone at the airport.
Bourne said that from time to time, the concessionaires at the airport would hold sales for the staff at Grantley Adams.
“There was one scheduled for this weekend, whereby if you are a holder of an airport pass, the various entities would give you sales of items at a reduced rate. This is something that has been going on for quite some time, but I guess that because of the current economic situation with everybody looking for a bargain that these activities are becoming more publicized or seem to be more attractive,” he stated.
And Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins sees the expo as a means of boosting revenue for the small business retailers who have been dealt a heavy blow by the pandemic.
“I can confirm that the Grantley Adams International Airport has already put out invitations to small businesses from all across the country to participate in the upcoming expo at the airport; and you will have vendors displaying a broad cross-section of craft and commercial products for persons to be able to purchase their gifts and so on,” Minister Cummins told Barbados TODAY.
With an appeal to Barbadians to flock to the airport this weekend and support the small businesses, she praised the board and management for coming up with this initiative which she said is a first for GAIA.
“This is an initiative of the board and management of the airport. If you remember when the expansion was first done at gates 14 through 16, it was contemplated that a number of small businesses would have been able to represent Barbadianna, would have been given an opportunity to take up those stalls in those areas,” Senator Cummins pointed out.
Noting that it has been a difficult year, not only for small and large businesses, but for workers and citizens as a whole, the minister said “If we can create as many opportunities as possible for people to earn and to showcase and of course to represent some aspect of community, then that’s what we are going to do. So I am happy that the airport has taken this initiative,” she added.
She also said that the COVID pandemic had delayed the taking up of new stall spaces within the airport.
“The tender process would have been closed a long time ago for the invitations for people to submit applications for those booths in the area of gates 14 and 16. But obviously, once COVID came, that area is now being used for the testing process for persons who are arriving without a negative COVID test report,” Senator Cummins explained.
“Because we had to obviously streamline our operations into that gate,[the] 14/16 area, we have not been able to continue with the tender process; but we will see our way up ahead to revisit that at some point in time. But we wouldn’t be in a position to say when,” she added. ([email protected])