Barbados looking for Canadian tourist boost
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday December 29, 2011 – On Christmas Day Barbados welcomed its newest airlink to North America - a 189-seat Canjet aircraft with 184 passengers on board.
And tourism officials are expecting that his new charter service under the Canadian-based tour operator Transat Holidays will bring over 3 000 visitors from Canada to the island over the next four months.
Air Transat will be offering direct service to Barbados every Sunday until April 2012 – a total of 18 flights.
According to Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy, the bookings have been “very strong with an 80 per cent load factor”.
This, he said, was “quite exciting” given that Air Transat is a “big player” as he described it.
“When we took over the Government in January 2008, I was asked to outline what we saw as the priorities and one of the principle ones for the sector was to get the appalling figures from Canada back up and I think we have succeeded in doing that because in 2007 we had just under 50 000 Canadians coming to our shores and in 2010, just under 80 000,” Minister Sealy stated, adding that he believes that the numbers can increase even further to similar visitor arrivals of the fruitful 1970’s and 80’s – when Canada was Barbados’ top-producing market.
Thus, he says that to achieve this, Barbados cannot only look to the scheduled operators, but also welcome the business of chartered flights.
“If we are to continue to see the needle go up as far as Canada is concerned, we need to have a relationship with Transat and I would like to commend everyone ... who worked hard to see that this became a reality,” he noted.
Additionally, the Minister was keen to stress that “it was a pleasure” negotiating with Transat and that “they did not ask for any money” such as a revenue guarantee arrangement or a seat subsidy.
“This is a coop-marketed programme that has formed the basis of this relationship. There is no money going to Transat from the purse by way of a direct subsidy … it is a diversified marketing programme with the use of billboards, magazine inserts and online, print and travel trade advertising so as to reach the widest possible audience and with load factors of in excess of 80 per cent, it is working,” he explained.
He further emphasised that he needed to share the specifics of this arrangement so that the public can know exactly what is happening with respect to this tourism initiative.
Meanwhile, Sealy revealed that there are plans under way to try to broaden the current Canadian target market to include more areas of the vast North American State “in the near future”.
Finally, Captain of the airplane, Dave Moore, spoke glowingly of the close connection between the two countries and noted that the warmth of the island’s people is a big draw for Canadians.