Above: Bridgetown (CJ Photo)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Barbados’ winter tourist season “will be an improvement on where it was last year,” according to Tourism Minister Richard Sealy.
The Minister said there were a number of “encouraging developments” that came out of the recent World Travel Market in London, although challenges have arisen with the closure of tour company XL Leisure Group and the repositioning of air carrier BMI.
According to Sealy, tour operators such as TUI and Tropical Sky had reported “favourable numbers,” he said.
“Our flights are intact,” he said. “We will have 10 flights from British Airways during the winter season, up from seven.”
Virgin Atlantic is also maintaining schedule of nine flights a week, said Sealy, who was speaking at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“That is also very encouraging, considering both of those carriers have been reducing capacity into the Caribbean,” he said, noting that all of the aforementioned flights will be dedicated, unsubsidized flights to Barbados.
According to Sealy, the Ministry is working to expand upon the existing flights.
“We continue to speak to other players in the market in terms of trying to get some charters going,” he said. “TUI UK has responded [and] there is a cruise and stay programme that we start in December and that will see four flights a week coming into Barbados.”
Of those, 60 percent of the flights will be for cruise passengers, with 40 percent for long-stay visitors.
Three of those four flights will be coming from gateways outside of London.
With the United Kingdom continuing to be Barbados’ most significant source for tourists, he said, the government will continue efforts to explore new gateways with the UK and other source markets, with plans to bring a flight out of Glasgow or Belfast for the winter 2013 season.
The US market is also “holding its own,” he said, with JetBlue service continuing, although the Dallas flight could not continue.
While the weekly GOL flight from Brazil has reported “modest” arrivals, Sealy called the flight a “worthwhile investment” for Barbados as it seeks to tap the Latin American market.
A flight to Panama City through COPA could also become a reality as soon as next year, he said.
On the intra-Caribbean market, he said Barbados was “still feeling the pinch from the demise of REDJET.”