By Kareem Yarde
Firstly, congratulations to the CHAMPION teams- ‘WI’ under 19s, ‘WI’ women’s and ‘WI’ men’s.
Like many West Indians, on Sunday, I too was glued to the television, gripped with suspense and anticipation as ‘WI’ secured our historic triumph over the rest of the cricketing world.
The reality is, I challenge anyone to find one West Indian who is not immensely proud of our Under- 19; our Womens; and our Mens teams.
Cricket has an amazing ability to unite the people of this region. In Brazil, there’s football, in New Zealand- Rugby, USA-NFL but for us, cricket is entrenched within our DNA.
Shortly, the region will also be extending our cricketing revelry and celebrations into the CPL tournament. It is perhaps at this time that our intra-regional transportation woes hit home the hardest.
‘WI’ are often not able to transit throughout the region, to engage in intra-regional cricket oriented sports tourism (through events like CPL) in a manner that truly reflects our regional passion.
It is the fact that notwithstanding the relatively few miles of separation between member states, transport throughout this region continues to be a challenge. For example, it is most disheartening that it is often cheaper to fly from Barbados to Miami than it is to fly from Barbados to Antigua.
Let cricket’s capacity to unite this region be an impetus for us to create a more efficient intra-regional air transport system. Let us not hinder through bureaucracies, inefficiencies and cost barriers the potential for the regions populace to engage in 24 hour excursions to drive sports tourism through cricket. These inefficiencies hinder the economic potential which member states can receive from these short stay sport tourism activities.
Therefore, given our regional passion for cricket and in light of events like the upcoming CPL tournament.
Can we rationalise the regional operations of our carriers to improve routings? Can our carriers establish red eye charter flights and scheduled flights which facilitate efficient and affordable movement throughout the region for these events? Can we consider the implementation of programs such as the Single Domestic Space applied during the CWC 2007 which would benefit these events?
Let us encourage competition, let us review our approach to regional air transport development as being an undisputed social service. Let us assess social routes on a case by case basis (we may even consider funding them on a tender basis through a regional fund). Let us reconsider re-screening passengers who have remained within ‘sterile’ environments in the air transport sense of the word.
These realities and questions highlight the glaring truth that there is still significant room for improvement with respect to intraregional tourism (in particular sports tourism and more specifically cricket) throughout CARICOM.
Even more than intra-regional tourism though, our attempts at regional integration cannot survive without more affordable and efficient regional air transport.
These comments are not intended to offend or to chastise those who have contributed arduously to the industry throughout the region. I am well aware that we have had our successes in regional air transport.
For example, we have managed to maintain a very safe air transport industry throughout the region and we have manged to maintain access to all member states. Rather these comments are intended to make genuine contributions to our regional air transport industry, to intra- regional tourism, to our regional development, and to our attempts at regional unity.
Air transport is meant to unify the global community, so let not our air transport industry be the factor hindering one of the greatest unifiers of our regions populace. Let us literally rally AROUND the West Indies.
Kareem Yarde is the founder and creative strategist of Tourism Analytical Services. He can be reached at Kareemyarde@gmail.com