I was recently castigated in a public forum by a senior member of the Barbados Tourism Authority over a question I posed, concerning the Dallas/Fort Worth/Barbados flight being reduced from three to just one flight per week. The criticism was that I should have sought clarification from the BTA first. In an ideal world, perhaps this argument has merit, but the BTA employs over 130 persons and there is, some may say thankfully, just one of me.
Trying, again, desperately to focus on the message rather than drag individual personalities into the equation, it graphically highlights just how fragmented communication is currently, between the tourism stakeholders and the national marketing agency. We in the private sector have to better articulate that there is a cost and a consequence to receiving delayed policy decisions. Second guessing and speculation cannot be an option.
As soon as conclusions are made, in which case our guests, and I suspect others, are directly effected, to the point where we could literally lose a substantial number of hotel room nights. Surely then it is only logical to disseminate to all that it may involve. We would then, have adequate opportunity to contact our guests and soften the blow, perhaps even offering one additional night’s lodging on a complimentary basis, rather than the negative financial implications it would bring.
The BTA already has a database and usually distributes a weekly newsletter, so the machinery currently exists. The question also has to be asked. Why are we not able to fill these flights?
Unlike, Atlanta, the decision to operate a non-stop to/from Dallas was taken during the recession. The seating capacity had already been reduced with a change of aircraft from a B757 to the smaller B737. The latest adjustment deprives us of yet another 300 seats per week. By world ranking DFW is the fourth largest in terms of operations and eighth in terms of passenger volume.
In 2011 the airport recorded a staggering 58 million passengers, of which 42 per cent joined locally and 58 per cent were connecting from one of the 191 destinations served by the hub. Last year we lost the only non-stop Delta Airlines once weekly service from Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport, despite it still being shown on the national website. Yet, our neighbour, St. Lucia, still manages to attract five flights per week.
With a US based advertising agency handling the BTA account , I cannot imagine there can be a misunderstanding of the American market. Having travelled to the DFW Metroplex area, the 12 counties within the state of Texas, which includes Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington last September and driving more than 500 plus miles around the metropolis during my week of stay, the demographics appear to exactly match our destination.
Over 6 million people live within an hours drive of the DFW Airport, and its difficult to comprehend why we cannot tempt less than half of one per cent of that number to our shores and that’s even before we take into account the nearly 200 connecting cities.