Just over two months ago (10th August), I questioned the wisdom of granting four airlines either new to Barbados or restoring previous services, permission to operate inter-Caribbean routes, presumably to help soak up any loss created by the failure of LIAT (1974) Ltd.
What was even more surprising is that all four carriers responded positively to the invitation before the reduction in the current crippling airline taxes promised by our leaders many months ago.
With all three (Canada, United States and United Kingdom) of our major markets now considered high risk and a recent poll conducted in the UK at the end of September, indicating that only 11 per cent of adults who participated in the survey were planning to travel internationally in the next six months.
The question comes back to the same one posed before, why are we not at least targeting lower risk areas like the announced Caricom Caribbean Community Travel Bubble arrangement , that was slated to be in effect by 18th September?
With carefully crafted hotel/flight inclusive packages, this would at least give some hope to the beleaguered airlines, several of which are fighting for their mere existence.
The ‘Bubble’ was agreed to at an emergency session meeting of the Caricom heads of Government on11th September at which they acknowledged ‘that the past six months have been a very challenging period globally and regionally, as countries have struggled to cope with the effects of the novel coronavirus’.
Noting ‘that for Caricom, it had been particularly difficult, given the high dependence in most of the economies on the travel and tourism sectors’.
The Government heads originally agreed that travellers from countries within the Bubble will be allowed entry without being subjected to PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing prior to arrival and would also not have to undergo quarantine restrictions.
Sadly last week (10th October), the Daily Observer (reported that Antigua’s Minister of Information, Melford Nicholas had advised that this had been revised and ‘it was decided that a negative PCR test will now have to be presented’, creating further doubt and confusion.
Travellers may however be subjected to screening on arrival and on the condition and must confirm they did not transit or travel to a high-risk country, either 14 or 21 days preceding arrival, the duration depending on which advisory you read.
Are we back to the same old stumbling block, the inability to follow-through and implement cross regional policies, in anything approaching a timely manner?
The outcome is that already some of these enticed carriers are starting to cancel scheduled and advertised services, as there is simply not sufficient demand to sustain four additional airlines at this time.
Could that demand, at least partially, be created with innovative marketing strategies and more affordable airfares?