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New aviation efforts

Ricky Skerritt

Barbados has been named as a member of a specially-convened aviation committee mandated to resolve vexing questions about intra-regional travel.

The Barbados Tourism Authority’s Aviation Consultant, Neville Boxill, will represent the island on the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Aviation Task Force, which is being co-chaired by St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Ricky Skerritt, and Puerto Rico’s Chief Development Officer of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, Jaime Lopez Diaz.

In announcing the new grouping, the CTO said it would “lead a mission in the New Year to meet with top ministerial officials and technical personnel in its member countries to seek their assistance in the advancement of better intra-regional air links to help boost tourism in the region”.

It said this was “one of several recommendations coming out of the inaugural meeting of the CTO Aviation Task Force which took place at the regional tourism development agency’s headquarters in Barbados recently”.

“We had an excellent first meeting and we are confident that CTO’s leadership in this area will be critical to reviving growth in intra-regional travel which has declined seriously in recent years,” recently appointed CTO chairman, the United States Virgin Islands Tourism Commissioner, Beverly Nicholson-Doty reported.

She said the discussions focussed on the cost of intra-regional travel, the economic impact of the declines in travel, improving the ease of passenger movement, and launching actions to improve the efficiency of Caribbean aviation.

At the talks jointly chaired by Nicholson-Doty and her predecessor Ricky Skerritt, the committee discussed the San Juan Accord — a memorandum on the regional air transport sector that was agreed by CTO members in 2007 – as well as other important issues such as minimum revenue guarantees, communication among regional carriers.

Discussions also included “open skies” agreements, government taxes and fees, fuel costs, visa restrictions, passenger security-screening arrangements, airlift capacity and the dependency of local hotels on the intra-regional market.

Talks also focused on American Eagle’s possible departure from the San Juan hub in 2013 and both the opportunities and challenges this presents, especially for destinations in the Eastern Caribbean which depend on this commuter service.

Recommendations from the meeting included a proposed meeting between airline and airport operators within the first few weeks of the New Year and a region-wide meeting of transportation ministers and commissioners in the first quarter of 2013.

The CTO explained that the committee reflected technical, regulatory and policy-making experience and has public/private sector representation from tourism professionals, accommodations, airlines, airports and aviation consultants. (SC)

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