Whether you attribute the now infamous saying, “there are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics’ to a former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli or American author Mark Twain, it is perhaps even more true today, than it was then. And in the current silly season, I am sure we are going to witness many examples. I would prefer, as they say in the popular TV series CSI, ‘follow the evidence’, for those few people who still watch television.
When you look at the long stay visitor arrival figures, it is not all doom and gloom, and I wonder if we can learn from it. Take Canada, our fourth largest source market. Between 2004 and 2007 we welcomed 199,894 Canadians. For the four years 2008 to 2011 that number grew to 265,390, a rise of nearly 33 per cent.
While the numbers are yet to be released for the final month of 2012, up until the end of November, 63,053 Canadians came to our shores, compared with 71,953 for the whole of 2011. So if December turns out to be a strong month, we should not be too far behind the previous year.
Sadly, it does not negate the losses in other markets.
The introduction of a second carrier WestJet, of course has played a vital role, and that contribution will almost certainly become greater once their Q400 turboprop fleet is introduced later this year, enabling more connecting possibilities to the Barbados-bound flights. And that takes me to LIAT fleet renewal question. Much discussion has taken place over the last two years ago with various aircraft manufacturers from Canada, Brazil, Europe and even China. It would seem a fait accompli if media reports are credible, with an order being placed for six ATR42 – 600 planes, each with a seating capacity of 50 persons.
This decision has caught a few industry observers by surprise as they expected LIAT to opt for the much faster 70 seat Dash Q400’s. The higher operating speed and number of available seats, would in many peoples view, offer a lower individual ticket cost, per operating mile. Especially as only two weeks ago, SVG’s Prime Minister announced the carrier would be introducing new longer routes to the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama and Aruba. Further considerations like having to stock two types of spare parts, pilot training etc., must similarly be put into the equation.
Anyway, despite the Barbadian taxpayer being the single largest shareholder, it would appear they have no real input in the final equipment decision making choice. During the time LIAT’s current CEO held a similar position at the highly subsidised Caribbean Airlines, Trinidad’s Sunday Guardian reported that ‘Ian Brunton was at the forefront in negotiating the ATR deal’ for that carrier, so perhaps that may have some bearing.
I tend, as someone who has to honestly state, is not in possession of the full facts, perhaps look at it a slightly different way. Maybe, I would ask the question, which airline manufacturer’s workers would be more likely to take holiday in the Caribbean and in particular, Barbados? According to their website, Bombardier employs over 70,000 people with around 33,600 working in the aerospace division.
I must admit, I have a soft spot for Canada. They have been good to us over the years and have certainly been one of the bedrocks of our tourism and financial sectors. One thing for sure, LIAT and it’s board, could endear itself much more their customer base, if they better explained exactly what they are trying to achieve and the reasons behind those objectives.