The people who sell brand Barbados at the Grantley Adams International Airport – from retailers to border officials – should protect it as a brand of excellence and world-class hospitality, Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins has told the operators.
Senator Cummins made the appeal as she met with shop operators, concessionaires, private aircraft handlers, baggage handling companies, taxi operators, airline representatives and regulatory agencies such as Customs, Police and the Immigration Department at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre Tuesday.
The minister for civil aviation presented travel projections for the remainder of the year that operators could use to start planning for their businesses and airport operations.
Senator Cummins said: “For the first quarter of the year, Barbados received around 10,000 visitors and since being added to the UK’s green list for travel, there [have] been extremely strong bookings. I say ‘extremely strong’ because that is the language being used by our partners.
“The expectation is that there are significant numbers expected to come out of the US market. Equally so, there are strong projections coming out of the UK market. All of these projections are for vaccinated visitors where the demand is extraordinarily high.”
She also discussed regulatory management issues relating to airport procedures and sought feedback on improving hospitality/guests’ experience at the airport.
She also reassured them of Government’s commitment to Barbadians and keeping them safe. “Let it be known that Government’s first priority is and will always be the safety of Barbadians, and the measures in place at our borders are designed to deliver on that,” said Senator Cummins. “Safety is part of the Barbados brand promise and the demand that we are seeing for travel is significantly driven by aggressive vaccination drives in our source markets and here on island.
“When a visitor arrives here, they have been vaccinated, tested at least two times and are cleared by health officials before being integrated into our communities. So, we are doing our part in terms of border management. What is just as critical, is ensuring that we continue to encourage our local communities to consider vaccinations and to respond favourably to calls for random testing. The two things must go hand in hand.
“The fact that Barbados is so aggressive about vaccinations is a strong pull for visitors who are just as anxious as Barbadians are about avoiding exposure to COVID-19.”
Interim CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), Craig Hinds, indicated that airline partners, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have plans to ramp up their number of flights to the island, and Barbados will be welcoming Ireland’s Airlines Aer Lingus and Dutch KLM out of the UK.
KLM’s return turns a new chapter in Barbadian aviation history. It was the first airline to land in Barbados at the beginning of regular passenger service at the then Seawell Airport in October 1938.
Hinds also noted that the BTMI had repurposed its call centre and in the coming weeks would restart its operations and officers would be on hand to “collect information on anything tourism-related”.
Shelly Williams, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Platinum Services Ltd., a major airport meet-and-greet operator, also sits on the BTMI’s board of directors. She shared the ministry’s plans to improve logistics in certain areas at the airport, including reviewing the time spent verifying PCR tests and vaccination certificates, baggage collection, and access to hired cars.
She also spoke of upcoming training sessions for all staff and persons interested in customer service. Also present at the meeting were Permanent Secretary Donna Cadogan and GAIA Inc. CEO Hadley Bourne. (BT/BGIS)