Next week the first Caribbean Aviation Meet-Up event takes place in Dominica and the objective, if I fully understand the concept, is to attract a number of highly qualified ‘experts’ in their own fields to see if collectively, we can formulate additional ways and means to improve and increase airlift within and to the Caribbean. Personally, the words ‘results orientated’ stood out and let us hope that this can be achieved.
To quote from their own website (www.caribavia.com/program.htm), ‘throughout participants are encouraged to share perspectives, ideas, concerns and successful strategies. The programme includes topics such as regional airlines, route development, airport development, airlift impact on tourism and economy, investment considerations, trends in regional travel and tourism, innovation of product, service and infrastructure.
The three day event is being hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Urban Renewal and Discover Dominica Authority and will be officially opened by the Hon. Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica.
So far, 18 Caribbean destinations are participating and it will be fascinating to witness the interchange of ideas. After operating the re-DISCOVER the Caribbean show for eight consecutive years, one of the most rewarding attributes was the sharing of common problems within the tourism industry and which in many cases produced simple solutions.
My particular contribution will be geared towards exploring what further routes and airlines might be attracted to the region. While this is already happening behind the scenes at an individual national destination level, I think it would be helpful to see who our neighbouring islands are in negotiation with and explore if there is any way that working together may expedite the introduction of any new services.
It is easy to think of Barbados in isolation, but due to our position as a major regional hub, connecting flights to smaller airports in the Caribbean, play a critical role in attracting, and just as important, maintaining, load factors on long haul routes.
This could possibly change in time and the Douglas-Charles Airport (Melville Hall) in Dominica is one such classic example. The all new C services Bombardier aircraft, of which Delta has just confirmed a firm order for 75 planes and options for another 50 can land on a runway only 4,000 feet long. Plus their smaller seat capacity, between 100 and 150 passengers substantially reduce the risk element by not having to fill with 200 – 400 people to make the route viable.
Another yet unknown is the effect that the eventual opening of the new Argyle airport will have on Grantley Adams International airport. Clearly to justify the construction and operation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be concentrating on attracting as many direct flights as possible. Personally I do not see this as a negative scenario at all. Increased airlift into the Caribbean and improved access generating multiple holiday choices can only be a positive thing.
How we partner with our sister islands is the key to creating a win-win situation for us all.
PS: Part of my presentation will be to highlight Norwegian Air.