Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins, has called on commercial and regulatory operators at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) to commit to selling and protecting Barbados’ brand, as one of excellence and world class hospitality.
She made the appeal this morning at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, while meeting with a wide range of stakeholders, including shop operators, concessionaires, private aircraft handlers, baggage handling companies, taxi operators, airline representatives and regulatory agencies such as Customs, the Royal Barbados Police Force and the Immigration Department.
The aim of the meeting was to communicate with these stakeholders the expected travel projections for the remainder of the year; engage persons on any regulatory management issues relating to GAIA procedures, and to gain feedback on improving hospitality/guests experience at the airport.
Minister Cummins gave an overview of travel projections through year end in an effort to provide industry stakeholders with information they could use to start planning for their businesses and airport operations.
“For the first quarter of the year, Barbados received around 10,000 visitors and since being added to the UK’s green list for travel, there have been extremely strong bookings. I say extremely strong because that is the language being used by our partners.
“The expectation is that there are significant numbers expected to come out of the US market. Equally so, there are strong projections coming out of the UK market. All of these projections are for vaccinated visitors where the demand is extraordinarily high.” Senator Cummins said.
She also reassured them of Government’s commitment to Barbadians and keeping them safe. “Let it be known that Government’s first priority is and will always be the safety of Barbadians, and the measures in place at our borders are designed to deliver on that. Safety is part of the Barbados brand promise and the demand that we are seeing for travel is significantly driven by aggressive vaccination drives in our source markets and here on island.
“When a visitor arrives here, they have been vaccinated, tested at least two times and are cleared by health officials before being integrated into our communities. So, we are doing our part in terms of border management. What is just as critical, is ensuring that we continue to encourage our local communities to consider vaccinations and to respond favourably to calls for random testing. The two things must go hand in hand. The fact that Barbados is so aggressive about vaccinations is a strong pull for visitors who are just as anxious as Barbadians are about avoiding exposure to COVID-19,” Minister Cummins stressed.
Interim CEO of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI), Craig Hinds, indicated that airline partners, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have plans to “ramp up” their number of flights to the island, and Barbados will be welcoming Airlines Aer Lingus and KLM out of the UK.
He also noted that the BTMI had repurposed its call centre, and in the coming weeks would restart its operations and officers would be on hand to “collect information on anything tourism related”.
Founder, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Platinum Services Ltd. and Director on the BTMI Board, Shelly Williams, shared the Ministry’s plans to improve logistics in certain areas at GAIA, including reviewing the time spent verifying PCR tests and vaccination certificates, baggage collection, and access to hired cars.
She also spoke of upcoming training sessions for all staff and persons interested in customer service. Also present at the meeting were Permanent Secretary, Donna Cadogan; CEO of GAIA Inc., Hadley Bourne, and Ministry officials.