Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

The most credible news source in Barbados

February 7, 2023
Barbadian economist cum pilot, Jeremy Stephen (Via

by Stacey N. Russell

Economist cum pilot, Jeremy Stephen, is urging Barbados and other Caribbean countries to prioritise intra-regional travel because it is more sustainable for economic growth. 

He contends the current uptick in international arrivals will not last as it is due to the pent-up demand created because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is particularly true for destinations whose tourism product remains unchanged. 

Stephen told CBC News, “Regional growth is going to be sustained on the back of intra-regional travel – that’s what I’ve witnessed when the low season comes. It’s the ‘U’s and ‘I’s that keep the demand going.

“When it comes to the extra-regional tourists, I honestly think that without changing the tourism product we can incentivise all the charters in Barbados that you would want to think of, but it doesn’t mean that long-term you will have the same level of traffic.

“I really do think there is a good future for aviation, but it just has to be specifically targeted. The environment is there to encourage more intra-regional travel. That’s where the big play is and the intra-regional movement of goods and services, not necessarily just depending on extra-regional tourism.”

Stephen, who has been piloting commercial planes for nearly two years, stated that at the height of the pandemic when for public health reasons, air travel outside and within the region was curtailed, exponential growth in e-commerce drove the significant increase in the movement of goods. 

Based on what he continues to see today, he said there is no slowing down in intra-regional airlift of goods, as small businesses who adapted their operations are moving products from Guyana to Jamaica and through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

“All businesses have recognised, especially going into the pandemic or coming out of the pandemic that relying alone on a local market is really risky. It is best to probably take advantage of the region or take advantage of the reach you can get in the region. So, that has facilitated an increase in demand for air travel,” he continued.

Stephen also reiterated his vision of Barbados being a significant transshipment centre in the region. And he asserted that prioritising regional travel would be particularly beneficial to Barbados, which is already proving to be a major logistics hub in the region.

“Barbados is clearly a hub. Barbados has the environment to support the most movement outside of Trinidad and Tobago, within the Eastern Caribbean. And given our position, we’re more attractive as a hub than even Trinidad for sure.”

“Consumer household items really picked up heavily through Barbados [during] the pandemic. Fruits and vegetables, poultry, dairy products weekly, guaranteed out of Barbados and through Barbados, tonnes of these things . . . It has increased coming out of the pandemic – both originating in the region and outside the region. 

“I believe there has been an increase in exports with respect to air travel coming out of Barbados as well,” said Stephen.

However, he pointed out there is a need for civil aviation authorities to modernise, particularly in Barbados, to become a self-governing regulatory authority that could be responsive to the needs of intra-regional travel.

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