Minister Sealy says he’s keen to have open skies, as he welcomes back Delta
The Minister responsible for air transportation says Government is “very keen” to hold discussions with the United States Government on a regional open skies policy.
Richard Sealy, who is also this island’s Minister of Tourism, made the declaration as he welcomed back Delta Air Lines to Barbados after a five-year hiatus.
During an elaborate reception at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) this afternoon, he noted that the elusive agreement had been under discussion for some time, but said it was absolutely necessary to facilitate healthy competition in inter-regional travel.
“This would in turn drive down the cost of airfare and stimulate more travel within the Caribbean,” said Sealy, shortly after the 2 p.m. touch down of DL483 from New York, with several officials, including Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism Irene Sandiford-Garner and the island’s Consul General to New York Donna Hunte-Cox on board.
Sealy said the return of Delta signaled the beginning of new non-stop weekly flights between Bridgetown and New York and Atlanta. He also said 160-seater carrier offered new connectivity through the Atlanta gateway for Barbados to approximately 220 destinations worldwide.
The Minister of Tourism also expressed optimism that having recently lost its direct American Airlines service from New York to Barbados, the decision to have back Delta would help to get tourism numbers back up from that important source market, which currently accounts for 21 per cent of arrivals.
Sealy further noted that today’s flight was the first since the establishment of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI). Therefore, he said, it provided an opportunity to truly test if the recent restructuring of the island’s main tourism marketing and promotional entities had made sense.
“BTMI now has the task of making sure that the Atlanta and New York flights not only continue but indeed the frequencies increase. The Atlanta one is particularly exciting because the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world and of course is a tremendous gateway, particularly to open up parts of the United Sates that we don’t necessarily get a lot of business from.
“In essence, there is an excellent opportunity with this Delta flight out of Atlanta to get the incremental business going.”
“We are actually increasing our marketing drive in the US and we are also dealing with this issue of brands,” Sealy said, while noting that “the US market tends to be more attractive to hotels that carry international brand”.
“I am very happy to see investment going on with so many indigenous hoteliers either reinvesting or investing a new product,” he said.
The Minister also indicated that the Jamaican-based Sandals group played a pivotal role in lobbying for the return of Delta, whose arrival follows swiftly on the heels of Monday’s inauguration of Air Canada’s Boeing 777 service, which inaugural flight touched down at the GAIA with 320 passengers on board. Officials have estimated that the 340-seater aircraft will bring 2,250 passengers to the island per week, amounting to a 15 per cent increase in traffic.