Marlon Madden Barbados Today May 13, 2021
One American Airlines official is forecasting a major increase in airline capacity to Barbados and other Caribbean destinations out of the United States towards the end of this year.
Christine Valls, Vice President of Sales for Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean, gave the optimistic outlook while pointing out that current capacity on the airline could dip as low as 30 per cent on flights to some Caribbean destinations.
She opted not to name those countries but pointed out that on average the cumulative load factor to the region was around 60 per cent and was even higher for some markets.
“The Caribbean pleasure destinations are doing well right now, and actually for the month of May we are holding about a 76 per cent load factor for the pleasure markets,” she said while singling out Puerto Rico, Haiti, St Thomas and St Croix as markets that were continuing to “do well” during the pandemic.
Valls said most people were making their bookings and purchasing tickets within days of their travel, making it more difficult to measure the medium to long-term outlook.
She said it was also still too early to say what impact the vaccine was having on travel numbers up to this point.
However, she said given the continued partnership the airline had with companies and governments to promote the destinations, and the pent-up appetite among individuals in the US to travel, she was expecting to see that increase in bookings for later this year.
“It is Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico that have been the markets that have seen the most traffic by far, by any entity globally, at least from an airline perspective. People want to go to a place where there is sun and it is short-haul. So there has been a lot of appetite . . . We have been seeing that since October and November, that trend started picking up,” she said.
“There is an appetite to go to the Caribbean . . . and I think the Caribbean jointly between the nations and the airlines and the hotels we can really capitalize on this,” said Valls.
She said for the region to better capitalize on the pent-up demand for travel it would be a big plus to have “the same requirements” in place.
“I believe standardizing requirements would really help. It is still confusing for customers to know exactly what is it that they need and ensuring the safety of customers; educating them and ensuring that they understand the tests are provided at the hotels; and we have to do some more co-op on advertising between the islands, hotels and airlines to ensure that people know exactly where they can go and what they need in order to go,” she explained.
She declared that American Airlines will be increasing flights this summer.
“We are currently flying 90 daily flights and we will be up to 108 for Saturdays only and this summer we will be flying 108 daily flights and about 140 on Saturdays.
“We feel the Caribbean will continue to recover,” she said.
“I see the Caribbean booming come fourth quarter. We are already seeing some of the islands perform better than they did in 2019. As more people get vaccinated, as people feel more comfortable in travelling, and us together with the islands [working] to develop the programmes, advertising and promotion of the islands, I believe the Caribbean will be booming come fourth quarter,” she added.
American Airlines resumed flights to Barbados out of Miami in October last year with five flights per week.
Valls’ optimism comes on the heels of a similar outlook by Chief Executive Officer of British Airways Sean Doyle as it relates to travel out of the UK, and Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley, who said while future bookings for Caribbean cruise were strong, he was upbeat about the strong response for cruise to originate out of Barbados starting in December.
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Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.