While it appears not to be public knowledge, I understand that The Concorde Experience is currently closed with no indicated re-opening date. Just at a time when many key tourism players are calling for additional attractions and activities to create an improved environment for increased average spend for both cruise and stay-over visitors.
While not privy to the circumstances of the closure, indications at least point towards financial challenges to keep the facility open and adequately staffed. My own thoughts are initially, until a full disclosure is made, that a significant sponsor should be sought, who can share the overall running costs. Sir Richard Branson immediately came to mind, who, with his various ventures, has demonstrated a clear commitment to the Caribbean.
Since commencing their first service to Barbados decades ago, Virgin Atlantic Airways has become the mainstay provider of airlift out of United Kingdom with flights from Gatwick, Manchester and a seasonal Heathrow winter service. My suggestion is to offer Virgin, space at the Concorde Experience to house an Upper Class exclusive airport lounge for processing and pampering passengers. Extended eco-friendly golf carts could provide transfers from the facility to the gate.
In 2020 (just months away) Virgin Voyages are expected to launch their first new cruise ship, named Scarlet Lady.
While it has been announced this vessel will home-port in Miami and initially operate 7 day Caribbean cruises, this will probably exclude Barbados, due to the distance. A second ship may be tempted to our shores, especially when you consider the airlift from the UK which in 2017 produced the largest number of cruise passengers. In any event, Sir Richard is on record as stating ‘we will have a big red Virgin Voyages ship coming to Barbados at some stage’. Again a dedicated Virgin cruise and fly facility housed at the Concorde Experience could give both the airline and cruise operator a distinct marketing advantage.
While some of us think of Virgin as an airline, in fact the group includes financial services, telecommunications, a radio station, train operation, hotels and holidays serving 53 million customers each year across 60 companies and is without doubt one of the most admired brands in the UK and across the world.
A newly formed enterprise, Virgin Loyalty Company will embrace all these interests and give consumers even more reasons for staying loyal to the brand.
This is just one suggestion and I am sure there are many more out there to help re-start this attraction, including amongst the tens of thousands of Concorde enthusiasts around the planet.
Such is the enduring interest in the plane, that a limited liability company was formed by a group of former Captains together with charterers and aviation fans called www.clubconcorde.co.uk and have raised a mind boggling GB Pounds 120 million to put an aircraft back into the skies as early at 2019.
While this is probably not a reasonable option for ‘our’ Concorde, Paul Jones, the president of Club Concorde recently commented ‘ we had wanted to lease and restore a British Airways Concorde for display in London next to the London Eye, but this has not been possible, so again we are looking to France and a Concorde near Orly airport’.
Could they divert some of those resources to Barbados?