Canada remains a major source market for Barbados, says interim president and chief executive officer of the country’s tourism authority, Petra Roach.
“The United Kingdom has been the largest deliverer of business and we are looking to stabilize the growth of North America,” she said. “Having said that, Canada is going to be providing a massive growth opportunity within the next few months and it’s one where we are focusing a lot of effort on.”
West Jet services Barbados four times weekly with non-stop flights from Toronto on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Air Canada services the country with seven daily flights out of Toronto and one out of Montreal on Sundays.
Exploring additional airlift was high on Roach’s agenda when she met with WestJet and Air Canada executives last week.
“We are also looking at how we can really scientifically look at the distribution and make sure that if there are 180 seats on the aircraft, all of the those seats will be filled,” she said.
This year marks the 65th anniversary since Air Canada became the first North American airline with scheduled service to Barbados. The carrier, then known as Trans-Canada Air Lines, inaugurated weekly passenger service when its 44-seat propeller aircraft landed in Barbados on December 3, 1949 after a 15-hour flight with stops in the Bahamas and Jamaica.
In the first year, the airline transported 1,500 passengers and 5,681 kilos of cargo.
On her first visit to Canada since being recalled to Barbados last month, Roach attended the Barbados Ball Canada Aid gala, which is a major fundraiser for Barbados charities.
“This is an opportunity for me to meet the movers and shakers in this community because the Diaspora obviously is a very important element for us in terms of promoting Barbados,” she said. “They really are the stalwarts and the backbone of what people perceive Barbados to be and we have, through a program called ‘Barbados Family & Friends Club’, institutionalized an opportunity for them to be the extended sales force for the country.”
Created by the Barbados Tourism Authority, the Barbados Family & Friends Club initiative was developed to encourage Bajan nationals in the Diaspora and friends of Barbados to promote the country as a vacation destination choice.
The Barbados Tourism Authority’s United Kingdom vice president of marketing and sales for the past 12 years, Roach replaced acting president and chief executive officer, Urban Cumberbatch, who was sent on early retirement. She will act in the position until the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority replaces the BTA in early August.
While the transition could lead to some movement and phasing out of jobs, Roach promised that the changes will be in the best interest of Barbados tourism growth.
“People should look at what we are doing as a massive opportunity to streamline the business and create an organization that’s nimble and can respond to the market quality,” said Roach. “At the end of the day, business cannot be as usual. We have got to be a lot more aggressive in the way that we do things. We must have higher expectations and anybody who is part of the organization going forward will know that they are part of something that’s really successful.”