Wednesday, 26 February 2014

No easy fix to intra-regional travel

President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. William Warren Smith, believes regardless of the criticisms of LIAT, this is an essential service for the Caribbean.

Antigua, Bahamas and Barbados, these countries experienced some downturn in their tourism
arrivals due to reduced airlift and extremely high cost in intra-regional travel. This has been the concern for many years that the cost is high and the service needs improvement.

Dr. Smith stated a few weeks ago at the annual press conference to highlight CDB’s activities in 2013 and economic development and prospects for 2014: “There has been much criticism and some of it well deserved of LIAT, but most of us have to utilise the service of LIAT and despite the great need of improvement, I think that we recognise that a Caribbean without a LIAT would be very difficult.

CDB approved loans totalling US$65 million to four shareholder governments (Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica for on lending to LIAT (1974) Ltd. (LIAT). These loans will be used to finance LIAT’s Fleet modernisation Project, including the purchase of new aircraft, the upgrading of maintained facilities and other institutional strengthening activities aimed at improving the airline’s financial performance and operational efficiency.

LIAT serves as an important vehicle for intra-regional trade in goods and services and provides vital airlift for tourist visiting the Eastern Caribbean.

Regional travel continues to be an ongoing challenge and numbers continue to decline in some markets. In Barbados, it is the third-largest market and it has been affected between the cost of travel, and of course the economic situation.

According to President of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Patricia Affonso-Dass, “There is need to have cheaper airfares intra-Caribbean, especially between Trinidad and Barbados. Trinidadians will not travel on LIAT for their leisure breaks and the rates currently in effect on Caribbean Airlines are a deterrent cost-wise. Trinidadians can probably fly to Miami for the same fare.

“Through the Marketing Committee, we are looking at offering an incentive to LIAT passengers from specific islands at strategic periods during 2014 to generate traffic into Barbados.”

There is no easy answer to the issue of intra-regional travel. A few years back discussions about a ferry system arose, even though it can’t replace air travel it was proposed as a cheaper alternative, but the talks seem to have died on that proposal. (NB)

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