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Air link between Barbados, Brazil

6/26/2010

It’s been a 15-year wait, but tonight at 9:45 p.m. a direct flight from Brazil will be touching down at the Grantley Adams International Airport. And even up until yesterday, Barbadian tourism officials were hard at work increasing awareness in Brazil about Barbados as a destination.

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, and other tourism officials were in São Paulo, Brazil yesterday continuing his ministry’s work in increasing the profile of Barbados in Brazil. Sealy met with a major travel trade magazine, Brasilturis, to discuss the opportunities created by the direct air link between the two countries on low-cost carrier, GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes.

“Tourism is an industry that is dependent on the economic circumstances of other countries. In other words, your source markets and basically how well things are doing and how they’re not doing determine to a large extent the success of your industry. So it has been a challenge to remain creative, to make sensible decisions in these times where resources are certainly finite and where there is a limit to what we have to spend. Therefore, it is also calling for more creativity in our existing markets, but also carefully looking at trying to get new business from new markets, which is why we are in Brazil today. That is why we have been working so hard to get this direct airlink between Sao Paulo and Barbados,” he said.

The failure of a direct airlink launched in 1995 has not deterred tourism officials from reaching out to the Brazilian market. What has changed, argued Sealy, is that the timing and circumstances are better this time around.

He maintained that as the largest low-cost carrier in Latin America, GOL was a strong partner, with a solid, large network that extends throughout Brazil and beyond, to other markets of interest to Barbados, such as Argentina.

In addition, he noted that having a permanent presence in Brazil, by means of a Barbadian Embassy in the capital, Brasilia, have enhanced relations between the two countries. Finally, he reminded that the Brazil of 2010 is a completely different Brazil in 1995.

“[Brazil is] the second fastest growing economy in the world after China. The eight-largest economy in the world, probably will soon become the seventh – I imagine it will pass out Italy soon. And they are comfortably ahead of Canada, so in fact they are the second largest economy and market in the Western Hemisphere. Those are very robust statistics that you can’t ignore if you’re serious about tourism. With a growing sense of affluence and desire for Brazilians to travel, to experience the Caribbean, we need to be here and we need make this work.”

According to Minister Sealy, Barbados is expecting to see the 500 Brazilians visitors Barbados currently averages annually, increase to 5 000 and he expressed the hope that the weekly flight could be increased to perhaps 2 - 4 times a week, as demand grows.

With a capacity of 120, today’s inaugural flight is expected to bring some 90 people. However, there is still some work to be done in this regard.

“Forward bookings aren’t bad. We aren’t going to be booking full planes to Barbados right away,” conceded Sealy.

However, he maintained that Barbados can still look forward to a notable economic benefit.

“Our arithmetic tells us that 60 passengers coming to Barbados and spending a minimum of seven days, the spend could be in the vicinity of US$1.5 million. Therefore the investment would be worthwhile," he insisted.

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