Tourism officials are giving the assurance that flights from the United States have not been suspended, neither is the Government offering airlines minimum revenue guarantees (MRGs) to fly here.
Dismissing concerns about flight suspensions, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins told Barbados TODAY: “Barbados has not taken a position that we are suspending airline travel from any of the countries. What we have done under the leadership of the Ministry of Health has been to identify the countries by risk category, whether they are medium, high, or low risk and on the basis of a risk category then we apply various protocols.”
The island has welcomed back all its US airline partners, with the exception of American Airlines which is yet to announce a date for resumption of flights.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. Robert Chase explained that officials were anticipating the return of American Airlines which was “actually keen and pressing to return”.
Chase said he was conscious of the challenges the carrier faced “in terms of the pandemic and the situation in the US and how best to manage that combination of health versus the resurgence of tourism”.
A now struggling American Airlines has already warned it could lay off thousands of workers due to a continued lull in the travel industry.
However, Chase said things were looking up for Barbados. He said officials were working out the details with Canadian airline WestJet to see if they could return for the winter period. Barbados is also expected to welcome back Lufthansa by November and Copa Airlines by year end or early next year.
Although opting not to give details, Chase also disclosed that authorities were in the process of exploring more options for regional travel in light of LIAT’s departure.
In relation to the MRG, which some airlines are said to be asking other countries for, Chase said Barbados has over the years been moving away from that support model – under which governments promise an airline that any shortfall in its minimum profit will be made up – and airlines have been “diligent” and cooperative in working with local authorities to find “the least cost solution”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a different circumstance where airlines all across the globe are in challenging situations. So, in order to secure the airlift, we have had to look at different models of supporting them. So, while we have begun to provide some support in terms of seat support, we have not gone the route of minimum revenue guarantees,” he explained.
“So, fundamentally, we have said to the airline partners, either through co-op marketing arrangements or through full seat support, we would support the number of seats they are bringing with a certain amount of financial support per seat.”
Chase pointed out that without at least a 40 per cent load factor, airlines would have difficulty continuing to fly to the destination.
“So, we have supported them with some financial support, but we have not instituted minimum revenue guarantee with airlines such as Virgin Atlantic or British Airways at this time,” he insisted.
Meantime, Barbados TODAY understands that officials are in the process of coming up with protocols for the cruise industry as they anticipate the return of that segment of the tourism market.
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had extended the No-Sail Order for cruise ships to the end of September, suspending passenger operations on cruise ship travel.
Cummins said authorities here have been working closely with industry partners as they proactively seek to put measures in place for the industry.
“We have been spending a lot of time in anticipation of when cruise is actually going to begin again, focusing on what those protocols should be. So, we have not just looked at what Barbados’ existing protocols are, we have looked at the EU [European Union] where some of the ships are meant to be originating and where some of the chartered flights are meant to be originating. And we have also looked at the CDC,” the Tourism Minister said.
“The CDC has raised a number of queries with regard to cruising and we have taken all of those things into consideration [and] into drafting, and we are expecting within the coming week, under the leadership of our Prime Minister, we should be in a position to be able to, along with the cruise lines, agree on a single protocol that Barbados and many other countries should be in a position to agree on and make available as part of our own approach to supporting the resumption of cruising,” she added.
On Tuesday afternoon, officials approved updated protocols for travelers to the island. Those are expected to be released by Wednesday.