After more than 60 years, the Chamber of Commerce’s duty-free facility at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA), no longer considered a viable business, has “permanently” closed shop at the end of last month, the business association said Friday.
From the start of April, the Customs and Excise Department had assumed full responsibilities for the airport’s duty-free services, the chamber said in a statement.
A duty-free facility opened at the then Seawell Airport in 1959 with the passage of the 1958 Drawback of Duties on Sales of Goods to Tourists Regulations.
The facility provided services to local duty-free retailers on behalf of the Customs and Excise Department, specifically the handling of duty-free packages purchased by travellers, as well as the processing of volumes of third schedules (triplicate invoices) under the drawback regulations scheme.
In response to a Barbados TODAY query, BCCI Executive Director Misha Lobban-Clarke said: “Following an assessment of the future viability of the Duty-Free Facility, the BCCI took the decision to close the operations of the Facility at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) effective March 31, 2021,” said Lobban-Clarke.
The development comes at the height of the country’s prolonged tourism crisis, its worst ever, with arrivals plummeting to a tenth of normal levels since the COVID-19 pandemic began, grounding flights several times over the past year. There are also no cruise ship operations taking place here.
Lobban-Clarke said: “Consultations were held with the Customs and Excise Department since last year regarding the Customs and Excise Department supporting the documentation processes that were previously undertaken by the facility on behalf of the Customs and Excise Department. Engagements were also held with members of the Duty-Free sector prior to the closure of the facility”.
The move also comes on the heels of the rebranding of the island’s largest duty-free and popular department store Cave Shepherd.
With the completion of the divestment of shares in Duty-Free Caribbean Holdings (DFCH), Cave Shepherd & Co. Ltd. announced at the end of January this year that DFCH would rebrand the iconic Cave Shepherd stores as Bridgetown Duty-Free.
The rebranding included the main department store on Broad Street, the airport arrivals store, as well as the Sunset Mall, Vista Worthing, Sheraton Mall and the Crane Resort locations. ([email protected])