IS THERE ANY CREATIVE WAY that our tourism planners can turn the current depleted value of the Canadian dollar against its United States (US) counterpart into an advantage? One means could be by enticing the massive US populace who live along the border to use a Canadian airport to reach us.
Take for instance, flights with WestJet out of Toronto to Barbados are priced from CAN$495 in April which in US dollars is only $342 return, including all taxes and add-ons or CAN$520 (US$359) with Air Canada.
Using Detroit, with a population of 3.74 million (urban area) as an example, it’s a road distance of 219 miles or about three-and-a-half hours driving. The lowest fare that I could find for identical dates from Detroit to Barbados with American Airlines was US$777 return and involved a near 15-hour journey time south-bound and 18 hours north-bound with very lenghthy layovers en route to Miami.
Many of the Pearson Airport area hotels offer very affordable accommodation, which include long-stay parking options and at an effective discount of 30 per cent, despite a three-hour drive, a direct non-stop flight must be a real incentive. Go onto a website called ParkSleepFly and an overnight hotel room for two persons and up to eight days free parking and included airport shuttles is as little as CAN$108 or aroud US$37 per person.
There may also be other ways we can cushion the currency exchange rate disparity. Last year, we tried to launch an attractions, car rental and activities version of the re-DISCOVER restaurant initiatve, specifically aimed towards the Canada market. On presentation of a Canadian passport and the voucher, it would have given a ten per cent discount on direct bookings at many of our tourism partners. Sadly, after approaching over 100 industry service providers, only two showed any interest at all. Each participating entity was asked to contribute $50 towards the cost of conception and implementation, so without a minimum number, it made no economic sense at all.
Maybe it is time to revisit the concept. One very encouraging aspect is that our incredibly loyal Canadian frequent visitors do not appear to be abandoning Barbados from all the comments I have read in various social media outlets. They are largely adjusting their visit by reducing the number of stay nights, eating out less and reducing the duration or skipping a rental vehicle altogether.
According to all the figures quoted in the Press, we are generally doing well in tourism and it is absolutely critical to maintain the momentum that we do everything possible to protect critical airlift especially in the softer summer months. Personally, I am convinced the private sector tourism industry on Barbados can do a great more in co-operative marketing projects. The number one objective should always be to enhance and spread destination awareness. Ultimately for our visitors it is their choice where they will stay and what they will spend on island.
Working with the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. the support of the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association, together with the publisher of the Thomas Cook inflight magazine, we collectively were able to put together nine pages of partner advertising in the next edition, which I understand is record-breaking for any single destination. Over the next three months, more than two million United Kingdom travellers flying on every flight operated by the airline will be reminded of what we have to offer.