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Looking up

Barbadians can expect an improved winter tourist season, which officially opens on December 15.

Reporting on his recent attendance at the World Travel Market in the UK, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy informed a press conference this morning at the Oceans Two Condo Hotel in Dover, Christ Church, that the island’s partners had told the Government, that this winter season will be an improvement on last year’s.

“There were a number of very encouraging developments coming out of WTM,” Sealy said. “Yes, there are some challenges — the United Kingdom economy, while it has seen a bit of a bounce with the increase activity they’ve seen over the summer, with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics and so on, there’re still some other challenges that they are dealing with.”

He said the point of encouragement was to hear that scheduled flights to this country from the UK were still on track.

“We will have 10 flights [per week] from British Airways during the winter season, up from seven, and that is extremely encouraging,” the minister noted.

He explained that these were 10 flights dedicated to Barbados.

“Now some will say we had 12 last year, but five of the 12 we were shared with other destinations. We have 10 flights dedicated to Barbados from British Airways and that will continue.”

Sealy revealed that Virgin Atlantic would also maintain its schedule of nine flights per week, comprising seven from London, Gatwick and two from Manchester.

“That is also very encouraging, considering both of those carriers have been reducing capacity going into the Caribbean. Barbados has maintained its airlift capacity out of the United Kingdom, again with dedicated flights,” the minister said.

He added that these carriers were coming here based on cooperative marketing, where the Barbados Government was not subsidising any of the seats or providing regular guarantee arrangements.

“We are not satisfied with that. We are talking to other players. Some may recall the Excel Leisure group going out of business and the seats that we lost then; and BMI also repositioning. They used to come out of Manchester and they stopped in 2008. We continue to speak to other players in the market in terms of trying to get some charters going,” observed Sealy.

He announced that TUI UK, a flying cruise operation, had responded.

“There is a cruise-and-stay programme that will start in December and that will see four flights a week coming into Barbados. Sixty per cent of the flight will be cruisers, but 40 per cent will be long stay; and of course, the real success story in that TUI UK charter is that three of those four flights are coming from gateways outside of London,” he declared.

Sealy said it was a good thing, with respect to diversification, that TUI Nordic was coming out of Birmingham, Newcastle and Manchester.

The Cabinet member also reported plans to merge the efforts of the various tourism offices across the world through Expedia, the world’s largest online travel company.

“The tour operator community, yes, the big ones likes Coney and TUI and so on, are all reporting increases; then the smaller ones — Tropical, Sky and Carib Tours and the like are also reporting increases,” added Sealy.

Bar Head Travel, a Scotish outfit, the minister announced, was interested in bringing a flight out of Belfast or Glasgow as early as next winter.

“It is important that we get those discussions going, because we need to get those players in,” he insisted. (EJ)

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