I was fortunate enough to attend the very first Caribbean Aviation Meet-Up hosted in Dominica during 2016 and use the word ‘fortunate’ without reservation, as even after over 50 years being deeply involved in a wide range of tourism ventures still found the event refreshingly informative and frankly, inspirational.
The 4th annual Caribbean Aviation Meet-Up will take place on St. Maarten at the Simpson Bay Resort from 11th – 13th June.
Their website describes it ‘as the largest and most significant international conference for stakeholders in the Caribbean region’ and a ‘results orientated platform between the various stakeholders in the aviation, tourism and investment industries. The focus of the conference is on experienced exchange, interaction and participation’.
For a long time, I have held the view that all business owners, directors and decision making manager’s, have to occasionally step away and look back from their own involvement and maybe clear their minds by listening to other views, if they wish to remain totally objective, whether their company is small or large. This is one such event that we can learn from each other and implement new ideas and concepts which will take the tourism industry forward.
Already a whole host of guest speakers are scheduled to make presentations, including universally acknowledged experts like Vincent Vanderpool -Wallace CBE., who was highlighted as one of the 50 most influential people in Caribbean tourism over the last 50 years.
All the names and particular specialities are too lengthy to list here but a click onto their website (www.caribavia.com) will give some indication. A particular area of interest to me is the presenter representing JAMVAC, the Government agency formed to spearhead airline growth in Jamaica. Dubbed the 5-5-5 concept, its primary objective is to build airlift into that country by 5 per cent over the next five years to 5 million arrivals.
If we need any better example then it is long overdue that we find regional solutions to Caribbean airlift, it has to be LIAT (1974) Ltd. Despite, the Caribbean’s overwhelming economic dependency on tourism, here we are 45 years after the company’s re-formation and ‘we’ are still looking for meaningful and sustainable solutions. Factor in that existing Government’s seemingly cannot achieve this goal, even when extracting around 50 per of the ticket prices in various taxes.
In reality when you consider all the other charges levied by airport usage and associated operational costs, is it even remotely surprising that once again we are on the brink of losing an essential intra-regional carrier?
My sincere hope is that some viable alternatives will be put forward at this year’s event. My tiny contribution will be to suggest supplementary ways that we can generate greater capacity and affordable choices, which will not further drain or deter our taxpayers, regional travellers and overseas visitors. Having witnessed dramatic tax rises across the tourism industry, mostly paid by our visitors over the last few months, I believe we are in serious danger of over cooking the golden goose.