Returning on a completely full British Airways flight from Gatwick last Monday it was a joy to find the Automated Passport Kiosks finally fully functional and I was able to clear Immigration within a couple of minutes.
Several staff – which we are left to assume – are placed there by one of the Barbados Tourism entities, were very visible and seemingly channelling arriving passengers into the fastest processing options.
The next obstacle is baggage claim, which on this occasion took just over an hour to retrieve a single suitcase after deplaning. With horrendously long lines for the Nothing to Declare, option, I decided to join the shorter queue, Goods to Declare. A very affable young female Customs Officer asked me a few questions and then waived me through. Just before exiting the arrivals area a Royal Barbados Police Officer (also a female) asked if I needed a taxi and personally led me to the Taxi Despatcher desk.
If we could just reduce the baggage reclaim time and speed up the customs procedure, then we have it almost right and I applaud all those who have been working on the improvements.
We should never lose track that many of our visitors, especially those arriving on transatlantic routes, have travelled, in many cases up to two hours to their departing airport, a minimum check-in of at least two hours, then sitting on plane for nine hours before finally arriving at their chosen destinations.
On my particular flight (at least in economy) there was a fascinating mixture, made up of families with small children, younger and older couples, together with second home owners.
During my short taxi journey home, I asked the driver if he had been busy and he replied that he had been at the airport since 5am and that my ride was his first fare at just after 4pm. This is perhaps another area that needs some in-depth investigation. Of course, every legitimate taxi operator pays an annual fee for the right to ply out of Grantley Adams International Airport. With the talk, of in some way privatizing, some aspects of the facility, pressure will increase to justify the hike of fees to users under any private control.
From my observation, the long standing problem of the so called ‘snatchers’ still persists. As the name implies, unlicensed individuals who prey on first time or unsuspecting visitors, then drive them off in vehicles, which may, or may not carry sufficient insurance.
I cannot imagine the media consequences if one of these vehicles are involved in a serious accident or crash and found to be unlicensed.
From general feedback and following social media sites like TripAdvisor Barbados Forum, many loyal Barbados returnees have albeit reluctantly accepted the massive increase in taxes on flights, accommodation and ancillary services. But, and it’s a big BUT, transferring the cost of marketing the destination from Government directly to visitors, therefore saving the administration a reported BDS$100 million annually will have to be justified in clear and transparent improvements.
For instance, are we any closer to ensuring every accommodation provider is registered, carries all the basic health, safety and insurance requirements and is finally contributing taxes to promote Barbados?