As the UK government prepares to ease travel restrictions on Britons, the head of British Airways, one of the main airlines serving Barbados, has given assurance of growing demand for travel to Bridgetown and the rest of the region that is ready for takeoff.
Chief Executive Officer Sean Doyle said: “The demand is there, we are ready and our partners are keen to get up and running again. Collectively we can be ready to capitalise on the opportunity when we are opening up”.
But Doyle said a lot of the airline’s planning for the expected traffic of British tourists will depend on the new travel policies to be implemented by London and the policies the Caribbean will employ.
Doyle urged regional authorities not to make it difficult for UK travellers by imposing too many restrictions.
He noted that the airline has been able to maintain services over the course of the pandemic to Barbados and other countries and “depending on how the demand plays out [and] the restrictions play out, we would love to advance and build on that hopefully over the coming months”.
“We have a long association, a strong brand and we’ve got great partners in the Caribbean so I think if we can work together to enable traffic and quicker opening up those are the kinds of opportunities we are able to pursue,” the British Airways chief told Wednesday’s Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Upfront online discussion.
Asked what message he would issue to regional governments on the conditions necessary for the full resumption of travel, Doyle said: “I think one is that we have got to remove frictions. I think to appreciate that travellers coming from the UK will be very low risk because of the progress of the vaccination here. As of today, 66 per cent of UK adults over 18 have had one vaccine and 35 per cent have had two vaccines.
“So I think in terms of the entry requirements into the Caribbean, [they] should reflect the risk profile of UK travellers, which is dramatically improved to getting better by the day.”.
He said it would also help if the region was constantly being promoted to reignite the passion for travel.
The BA boss said based on the searches for travel, there was “a lot of enthusiasm” among Britons to visit again when restrictions are lifted.
“I think we have evidence in the last couple of months that things will recover, but as I said, at the minute we are in wait and see what the government policy is in the coming days and we will plan on the back of that,” he said, adding that he believed the Caribbean should fall on the UK’s “green list” for travel.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that there will be some “opening up” of foreign travel on May 17, but said more information would be forthcoming in days on how international travel will restart in England.
Foreign holidays are currently banned but a traffic light system of rules is to be introduced with countries being classified as green, amber or red.
Travellers to green countries will not need to isolate on their return to the UK but will need to take a COVID-19 test. Those arriving from amber countries will need to self-isolate, while arrivals from red countries will have stricter rules including 10-days quarantine at a paid government facility.
Doyle said during the last year, British Airways has been able to restructure its operations to make it more resilient, adding that when restrictions are lifted the airline will be ready for takeoff.
“We are looking forward to the announcements by the UK Government in the coming weeks in relation to the travel framework, and I think the Caribbean will form a very important part of our plan as we come out of the pandemic,” he said.
Doyle indicated that the airline was “being very dynamic in keeping an eye on opportunities” in the region, adding that COVID-19 protocols will be a major plank in determining travel to the region.
He said British Airways has already adopted “a COVID reassurance framework”, which was receiving positive feedback.
He said continued partnerships with governments, international partners and airports will play an even more critical role, declaring that “there has been a lot of learning about the values of collaborations” over the past year.
He said he was “excited” about the future of travel.
Doyle said: “I think we all have a common role which is to open up international travel safely and I think if we stay focused on that there is a lot we can achieve through collaboration.
“The kind of things we do in aviation I am very proud of, and the effect we have on economies and bringing people together is something very inspiring. I think people will get that excitement back and that urge to travel, and we are ready and waiting to be a part of it.” ([email protected])