Showing posts from May, 2011

We Need Cheap Flights

Regional tourism-dependent economies continue to feel the stress of the global economic slowdown.  It is a slowdown that is severely impacting our neighbours in a way that we in Trinidad may find it hard to imagine.  Last October, an IMF report reminded us that Caribbean countries are among the most highly indebted countries in the world with five of the thirteen Caribbean countries having public debt-to-GDP ratios of more than 100% with an additional four having debt levels above 70%.
Unfortunately, to pay their bills, some of our neighbours have to tax tourism but in a way that does not scare visitors away.  In early May, St Lucia announced a US$35 / EC$ 95 / TT$224 Airport Development Charge on all flights.  So a family of four flying even transiting through St Lucia would have to find nearly US$140 extra.  LIAT explained that “taxes and charges paid on LIAT tickets may in some instances represent more than 50 per cent of the ticket price”.  Last week, I was in beautiful St Kitts …

So Much To Do

Last week, I was trying to get to Anguilla for a meeting, only to be told while transiting through Antigua that the Anguilla airport was closed.  Apparently the air traffic controller was not feeling well that day.  Thanks to LIAT’s excellent customer service however, passengers were put up in a fairly decent hotel and treated to dinner.  Thank you LIAT.  The next morning we flew out to St Maarten, to catch the ferry across to Anguilla.  
While on board the ferry I looked around at the bankers from Barbados tapping away on their BlackBerries while the French tourists took lots of pictures, and then it struck me.  What a resource we have in Trinidad with our inter island ferries and our Water Taxis!  I look forward to seeing links on airline / tour operator / travel agency websites that allow incoming visitors to buy ferry / Water Taxi tickets while booking their flights / hotels.
Those of us who use the local Water Taxi may take it for granted but for a visitor to our shores, that ri…

Promote Our Festivals

Last week I had an interesting conversation with a final year UWI student.  She was doing research on Music Tourism.  As we spoke, we wondered to what extent is music tourism similar to what we in the Caribbean context, loosely term festival tourism.  
Of course, when talking about festival tourism in our part of the Caribbean, we must acknowledge the work of Jo-anne Tull and Dr Keith Nurse.  It was Nurse who in February 2010 helped us understand that mas players spend about $93.4 million, and fetes earn over $500 million as part of a total carnival economic contribution of $1.3 billion.  He also helped us in our efforts to move away from visitor numbers as the primary measure of festival success.  After all, in 1998 St Lucia Jazz had just under 10 000 visitor arrivals while Trinidad carnival had 32 000. Yet the total spend of both was about US$14 million. American Tax Singapore
This discussion of music and / or festival tourism is quite a timely one, given that we recently saw Tobag…

When Will Low Cost Fares Begin?

The easy answer to the question posed by my title is – last month.  Even though REDjet only starts flying this week, as flights went on sale last month, Caribbean Airlines almost immediately cut their fares on some routes.  Already customers are benefitting from healthy competition.  This sounds like a good thing to me as a customer. US Tax Singapore
Some have expressed to me however, some concern over the (hidden) extras that low cost carriers (LCC) charge.  Would these hidden extras lead to average fares that are higher than the legacy carriers?  Last month, a report prepared by flight analysts RDC Aviation compared 5 000 airfares from 20 different airlines at 192 airports.  In short, this study revealed that LCCs offer consumers fares that are on average 33% lower than full service carriers.  This is despite the fact that LCCs can add up to 44% in ‘added extras’ to their standard fares.  So while average fares will be considerably more than the $9.99 lead-in prices that REDjet ad…

A Strategic Plan for Tourism

On Tuesday 19th of April, something called Tourism TV was launched.  Specifically, a tourism breakfast seminar was streamed over the internet.  It was hosted by our Ministry of Tourism at the Leon Agostini Conference Hall, Chamber Building, Columbus Circle, Westmoorings.  Unfortunately I was in St Kitts at the time but I was looking forward to logging on to this Tourism TV, were it not for my issues with LIME (a Cable and Wireless brand) which meant I could not get on to the web at the time. 
Fortunately, a few kind friends were emailing me minute by minute updates which I could read on my Blackberry.  One thing that confused me was that one friend explained that a member of our Cabinet appointed Tourism Standing Committee seemed to be unaware of the details of a Strategic Plan that was being developed.  This would suggest that this plan is being done independently of the very stakeholders who would be responsible for mobilizing it.
The logic of this eludes me.   I am not alone as ot…

Airline Politics in the Eastern Caribbean

The week of April 18th has seen St Kitts occupying a special place for those of us interested in the regional travel and tourism sector.  In St Kitts, Tourism Ministers from across the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) converged for the 10th meeting of the OECS Council of Tourism Ministers.  The theme was: ‘OECS Economic Union: Strategic Considerations for Tourism’. At a time when the wider CARICOM grouping is not progressing as quickly as many of us would like, the OECS Secretariat is trying to push forward.  Personally I am skeptical about nations which are to some extent, competing tourist destinations, embarking on a single OECS marketing and branding strategy.  A part of me hopes that in time, I will be proven wrong but for now, I remain skeptical.
Obviously the agenda included issues related to intra-regional travel in the OECS.  The pre meeting press release quoted Dr. Loraine Nicholas, Programme Officer for Tourism at the OECS Secretariat’s Economic Affairs Divi…

The End of High Fares

Last Monday, a message from the REDjet CEO appeared on their Facebook Fanpage which announced that they were taking bookings as of April 13th with flights starting May 8th.  The first destinations to be offered are Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and of course Trinidad. 
Many of us will be trying to buy one of the US$9.99 one-way fares or one of the 250,000 seats for US$49.99 or under.  But would this necessarily mean the end of high fares?  Time would tell but it would be difficult to ignore the similarities between what is expected to happen between REDjet and Caribbean Airlines (CAL) and what happened between Digicel and TSTT some years back.  I was not living in Trinidad at the time, but I did follow the events with great interest.  There are two areas that interest me.  Firstly, there is the impact on consumers.  Secondly there is the impact on the incumbent service providers. Fatca Law Singapore
Firstly, in terms of the impact on consumers, we observed that handset prices fell drama…

The Potential of Medical Tourism

In November 2010 there was an article in another local newspaper speaking of the potential of medical tourism here in Trinidad and Tobago.  It was written by the President of the Private Hospitals Association which makes sense as this tends to be a private sector driven initiative.  Since then I have noticed at least three (3) of our Caribbean neighbours taking the lead on medical tourism.
Firstly, there is Barbados.  Over the last few months, I have noticed ads from the Barbados Fertility Centre in our local press.  But they are also advertising beyond our region.  Last week, on a US travel site, I noticed a number of in vitro fertilization (IVF) ‘holiday packages’ that bundle airfare and accommodation with airport and clinic transfers.  Packages range from US$5 500 to US$30 000 and beyond.  IVF costs are not included in the package prices.
Secondly, there is Guyana.  Last month, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo reported that his government had secured an $18 million line of cr…

Let’s Raise the Level of Debate in Tourism

Two things got me thinking last week.  Firstly, I was at a meeting at which some government programs were being discussed.  Someone make the point that hoteliers were having problems recruiting workers because social programs such as CEPEP were attracting available workers.  Secondly, I have been following some online discussions about the tourism industry and its apparent challenges. For me, the common thread between these two incidents was the lack of hard data to support views.  Not that the view or criticisms were right or wrong but just that there is an absence of hard data in the public domain to guide discussions.
When one compares local discussions around the energy or manufacturing sectors for example, and compares it to what obtains in tourism, the difference is stark.  The head of a tourism stakeholder group has often said that tourism is treated like the ‘outside’ child.  I do not think that I have found anyone who really disagrees with her.  Discussions around our touris…

The Future of our Carnival

The website last week advertised a Symposium to Examine Carnival’s Creative and Commercial Inputs.  The symposium hoped to address the question of “Trinidad and Tobago masquerade’s traditional creativity and what presence it commands in the highly commercialized 21st century look of the festival today”.  It was scheduled to take place on March 24th at Medgar Evers College in New York and I do hope that some of its findings would be published on the web.  
This symposium is of course very timely given the recent debate raging on the future of this national festival.  I spoke with one well known band leader last week who wondered what all the fuss was about.  In his mind BBF (bikini, beads and feathers) were just the next step in the evolution of the art form and evolution is natural.  On the other hand, a carnival researcher was clear that if BBF evolution continues, we will have a festival that anyone with some working capital and the email addresses of some costume s…