Come January 2020, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds will be in Africa, building out tourism linkages there.
Symmonds revealed the above during a Local Investors Conference held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday, to provide details on the proposed Public-Private Partnership, which will eventually see the transfer of the daily operations of the airport moving from under the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) Inc. to a private operator, through a long-term contractual agreement.
Pointing out that we are now in the latter part of our fourth consecutive year of growth in each of our major source markets, Symmonds added that three of the key source markets are now trending towards double-digit growth this year. On this current trajectory, he said, “Barbados is a safe bet and a sure investment.”
He however noted the need to diversify the base from which the country draws its tourists, given a number of external factors beyond our control, which could impact the tourism sector.
Using the example of the UK as a source market from which 35 per cent of our business is drawn, Symmonds acknowledged that Brexit offers a possible threat. As such, marketing has been ramped up in the United States, which offers 30 per cent source market appeal and tourism officials are equally investing heavily in Canada and Europe, which together account for 20 per cent.
He later added: “In January of next year, I will be in Africa because again, we are trying to break new ground in certain strategic targeted areas in Africa, where we feel (there is potential).”
The Tourism Minister, in speaking with the media in more detail, however noted that whilst there are no firm commitments as yet where travel to Africa is concerned, a number of possibilities are being worked on.
“There are no firm commitments because we have to design what routes would look like, but I can tell you the people who have expressed interest. The Kenyan Government has expressed interest; they obviously have their own airline. Equally, we have had discussions with Qatar and this also is an ongoing process. I really don’t want to make announcements, but there are other discussions with Emirates at the same time, so that we have to see where this goes,” Symmonds revealed.
He added, “Part of the process is to be able to work out the appropriate kind of mix in terms of the route that we will travel because there is generally an interest in Barbados, but an airline has to be able to be filled both ways and we have to have the volume of traffic that makes it worth the while going back the other way.”
Stressing that a scheduled type of approach may prove a bit more difficult, he did note that there is a willingness to begin by way of charter.
“I should also say that there is a view that we take along the rest of the Eastern Caribbean with us on this journey and I share that view and therefore, it makes it easier for us to be able to (gain) two-way traffic because we are not just relying on Barbados’ population, but you also bring along the Eastern Caribbean to help flesh out the plane,” the Minister stated. (RSM)