BHTA Head wants discounts, packages for CARICOM nationals regionally
Chief executive officer of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Senator Rudy Grant in Jamaica in April 2019 (FILE).
Commercial flights in Barbados could resume July 1.
With this knowledge in hand, tourism officials are being urged to prepare for the reopening of the country's borders for leisure and travel.
During his feature address at the annual general meeting of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), Chief Executive officer Senator Rudy Grant reported that the novel coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted the island's tourism sector.
Video caption: Some of the final commercial flights out of Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on May 22, 2020.
Barbados saw a dramatic decline in hotel occupancy in April 2020, declining by 89 per cent in comparison to April 2019. The average daily rate also dropped by 55.7 per cent.
Grant declared that the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) will recommence commercial flights from July 1 but the reopening was dependent on developments in the source markets. He also disclosed that for the American market, America Airlines and JetBlue are expected to return in July. Air Canada is anticipated to return in July and WestJet will recommence flights during the winter season - in November or December. German airline carrier, Lufthansa is expected to return to Barbados in December. Carriers for the United Kingdom might return in July.
Grant stated that the BTMI was in discussions with carriers on the necessary protocols for the health and safety of passengers and to ensure a second wave of COVID-19 does not occur.
"The BTMI is looking at the creation of air bubbles with those destinations where there has been adequate management of the transmissions." He said that the hope is to have an easier and better flow of passengers going through the necessary protocols, "a process that is a lot easier than what would now exist in this environment.
"We must ensure that the resumption of the tourism business does not accelerate the second wave of COVID-19 which unless properly managed can have a debilitating effect on the country and force us back into those lockdown procedures which had to be undertaken to ensure the COVID-19 transmissions were significantly reduced," the BHTA CEO remarked.
Given the steep decline in air travel, Grant also suggested that local tourism officials should create more staycation programs and offer affordable and attractive packages for the CARICOM nationals.
"We can provide attractive packages through CARICOM which can provide discounts for accommodation, dining, attractions, and car rentals.
"We can lobby Government to consider temporarily removing taxes for regional travel while encouraging our partner associations in the region to do the same. This provides us with the opportunity to create safe travel bubbles between countries creating effective management of COVID-19 and also facilities the resumption of regional travel for CARICOM nationals," he said.
Adding: "Let us use this opportunity to encourage CARICOM nationals to explore the beauty, attractiveness, history, and heritage of our destinations while stimulating economic activity to assist with maintaining jobs and also business survival".