Last week we had an unannounced visit from one of the Lonely Planet travel editors, Alex Egerton, who is based in Popayan, Colombia. It brought back fond memories of a week that I spent there many years ago and what a scenically beautiful and tremendously diverse country Colombia is.
Alex had used the relatively new direct twice weekly flight from Bogota to Barbados and was busy ensuring that all the information about to be placed in a new upcoming Caribbean edition of the travel guide was correct.
I understand that a marketing team from Barbados went to Colombia to help stimulate the route, but frankly I have been surprised by the seemingly lack of trade delegations in the opposite direction, especially knowing the incredible range of products including fruits, agro processing and coffee, the country produces. Is the lack of interest due to the fact that most of our current distributors are foreign owned and already have embedded inflexible sources of supply?
Over our near thirty years on Barbados, it has been one of the most widely discussed topics that the majority of our visitors cannot understand. Why on a tropical island with meaningful rainfall for at least for up to eight months of the year, is there is usually such a miserable range of fruit and vegetables available? Even when certain items are available the price is often prohibitive when compared to the areas the majority of our visitor’s herald from. Certainly, the favoured few involved in tourism can also without restriction import just about anything they need in dry or refrigerated containers.
So with Colombia now just three hours away and with air freight capacity on these Avianca flights, why have we not seen more interest from their suppliers and manufacturers?
When looking at flight availability, certainly for this month, there is also a huge deterrent to filling seats in the south-bound direction. For travel on identical dates during October the return fare from Bogota to Barbados is US$437, but from Barbados to Bogota it is US$773 return.
So can we realistically expect to fill two flights a week each with a 100 seat capacity Airbus 318 planes per week? Bogota is one of the 30th largest cities in the world and if you include the Capital District and surrounding Metro area it boasts a population of nearly 11 million. Add the incredible networking hub Avianca operates, making many other cities within South and Central America become well within one day’s overall travel.
Due to its Andean location, Bogota is over 8,300 feet above sea level with temperatures ranging year round between 15 and 20 degrees Centigrade during the day, but drop dramatically at night to between 6 and 11 degrees Centigrade, with March being the hottest and December the coldest.
My own thoughts would be to target certain markets and these would notably include kite and windsurfing together with other sports, members of the diplomatic corp, as Bogota has 55 foreign embassies alone and they actively look for accessible safe destinations.
Another very attractive option, especially during the winter months, would be to join our home porting smaller ships like Star Clippers and frequently visiting Seabourn for a Caribbean cruise and stay programme.