Later this week JetBlue start their new daily non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood (FLL) airport to Barbados and it offers tremendous additional potential for our entire tourism industry.
It is going to be very interesting how ‘we’ as a country target the Florida market. Of all the fifty states, Florida has the highest percentage of people aged over 65 years (17. 3 per cent) and the eighth fewest under 18 years (21.9 per cent). It is also the third most populous state with almost 20 million residents. So almost one in five are retirees with bags of time on their hands, so how can ‘we’ tempt’ those to our shores?
At least in Southern Florida, climatic conditions are similar and they certainly do not lack gorgeous beaches, an almost bewildering choice of shopping and endless attractions and activities. My own thoughts are that we have to give them reasons to choose Barbados. Culture, history, unique experiences, common and special interests etc.
I would also look to find smart partnerships to see how most cost-effectively we can get higher destination awareness out there. JetBlue is by far the largest operator out of Fort Lauderdale airport and if it has not been done already, then the seamless connecting cities should be identified and promotional activities stepped up in those secondary gateways.
In a recent media release, Marty St. George, Jetblue’s executive vice president of commercial and planning stated that the airline will expand its Fort Lauderdale presence with a projected ’75 percent growth’ over the next few years. In 2015 alone the airline carried over 5 million passengers through this hub. And with the risk of sounding like a broken record, can we encourage JetBlue to forge further alliances with airlines like Norwegian Airways to provide improved airlift out of Europe and especially Scandinavia.
Finally, after a near two year delay, Norwegian Airways has received permission to fly from Cork in the south of Ireland to Boston. It will only be a matter of time before they add Fort Lauderdale, where they already offer direct flights from Stockholm, Helsinki and Copenhagen. Imagine how attractive it would be for many more Europeans to have the opportunity of a two centre holiday, combining Florida and Barbados.
Cork to Boston is just 2,928 miles, so around six flying hours. Cork to Fort Lauderdale 4,075 miles with another 1,600 miles continuing onto Barbados, but at the same time eliminating expensive and lengthy connections flying in the opposite direction via Gatwick or Manchester.
The new JetBlue service will also provide a valuable competitive alternative. Prior to submitting this column, I went online and was able to book flights travelling Fort Lauderdale to Barbados on 3rd May, returning 11th May at an amazing US$215 introductory fare, including all taxes and a return originating in Barbados from US$201 for other dates in the same month.
As we move into the longer leaner summer months, there could be no better time to tempt our northern cousins down here with fares that would barely take you to another neighbouring island.