Submitted by Roslyn Shepherd
Demand for travel determines the servicing of routes by airlines.
The pandemic has triggered economic hardship worldwide, failures and or downsizing of some airlines, and in the absence of a definitive end to the effects of the pandemic, an on-going contraction in the demand for travel. This is bad news for Barbados whose economy is tourist dependent.
Whilst the country is in a wait and see position, it might well be beneficial if it looks at establishing a connection with Western Africa via air travel. As the most easterly Caribbean country, Barbados is nearest to West Africa, 6,406 km from Ghana and 7,431 km from Nigeria. There are seventeen (17) West African countries of which Nigeria and Ghana have a population of 100 million and 30 million respectively. Ghana is defined as a third world country but with the world fastest growing economy in 2019 and Nigeria, a rich 4th world country. Both Ghana and Nigeria have controlled the spread of Covid-19 and could be the main routes.
Demand for travel between Barbados and Ghana and Nigeria would have to be assessed by the Government of Barbados. In the absence of information, Barbados could benefit from promoting its educational institutions from primary to tertiary level. Parents who can afford tuition plus boarding and all the incidental costs might for a variety of reasons, prefer their children being schooled outside of the country. It might also be possible for Chefette to expand into West Africa. How Barbados can benefit from other aspects of oil rich Nigeria and agricultural based Ghana will also require research.
This suggestion is not new; both Jamaica and Guyana tooted flights to Africa but they failed to materialize. However, the present economic climate might just be right to follow through with these West African airline routes. Though flying to Barbados, most of Virgin Atlantic airplanes have been grounded by the pandemic. Dire warnings about the continued spread of Covid-19 in the USA, UK and even Europe do not indicate this airline will return to full flight in the short term. With assets grounded and the airline bleeding money, Sir Branson might well be receptive to a route from Barbados to West African countries. His planes would be back in the air earning money. There’s no direct competition. Ticket prices can be relatively cheap because the airline would be flying to an oil rich country, Nigeria. However, the viability of each route is incumbent on Barbados justifying demand.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if the former slaves in the Caribbean reverse the slave triangle to carve out trade between West Africa and the Caribbean and even North and South America.
This challenge is not outside the Prime Minister of Barbados’ orbit. The PM has resource people who can pull together a comprehensive Business Proposal. Her several interviews at the international level has raised her profile which should lead to contact and persuasion of the key international asset providers, Sir Branson or the alternative British Airways and though not discussed herein, the governments of Ghana and Nigeria.
This is not a start-up business where projected minimum start-up capital would be around $22 million in the first year as per a Business Plan done for a proposed new airline in 2010. The airport hubs, planes, personnel, etc., already exists. It would be interesting to know the flaw(s) in my idea.