By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — The collapse of Thomas Cook following failed negotiations to secure £200 million, the value of Sterling against other major currencies, Virgin Atlantic’s review to its global flying programme that will cease flying to Saint Lucia from June 8, 2020 ‘for the foreseeable future’ and notwithstanding Saint Lucia’s minister for tourism Dominic Fedee’s abbreviated comments that the 178-year-old UK brand Thomas Cook “was a drop in the bucket for the island,” authenticates variability amid policy triviality.
The deficiency of Fedee’s comment equally abbreviates policy triviality on regional/international travel intelligence, and the indifference to facts and data, with a composition of trained minds on decision making.
July 27, Fedee said: “To proactively address any fallout that may arise from the cancellation of the Virgin Atlantic flights, the government of Saint Lucia has been in very fruitful discussions with other carriers and has received very good feedback from at least one other airline to increase capacity from the UK Market in the very near future.”
“During those talks, Virgin indicated to local tourism officials that in order to continue operating its existing five flights weekly in the winter months, and three in the off-season summer months, it would require EC$20 million or USD$7.5 million over three years.
“Two other options were presented to us which would mean a significant reduction in Virgin Atlantic flights to our shores and did not present the best return on a potential investment. It is our strong belief that agreeing to Virgin Atlantic’s demands for a multimillion-dollar subsidy would have opened the door for other airlines to also ask for subsidy,” he said.
Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) Philip J. Pierre explained the Virgin Atlantic situation [in July]:
“This development has a serious impact on Saint Lucia as a destination, particularly for flights coming in from the UK market. The UK market is unique in that the people from the UK spend a longer time 7 to 14 days. They also spend more money. They go out more. They’re not very much into the all-inclusive. And no matter how the government may try to spin this a replacement in that market segment is inevitable.
“The other factor is at what cost for a replacement airline(s) to service the route?”, Pierre stated. And secondary to HIA re-development project. Virgin Atlantic “has stopped coming so it means that your revenue projections have gone wrong even before you started, drawing on his experience as a management consultant on matters of risk factors and the opposition model of financing Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that an unwise government has shelved in exchange for a loan and an increase in the national debt.”
Recently, Pierre recalled that the minister of tourism and the prime minister were boasting about how the country was doing so well in the UK market – considering plans afoot with Thomas Cook.
“Look at what is happening to Thomas Cook at this point,” Pierre stated. “I would like the minister for tourism to say what remedy he has for Thomas Cook collapse and whether the same revenue projections that he has boasted about are as they seem.
“I have always said that the revenue stream can change and the Virgin and Thomas Cook situations clearly show that the revenue stream is not static,” Pierre said.
Now consider this: “Thomas Cook has blamed a series of issues for its problems including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, is planning to mitigate any potential fallout from the collapse of Thomas Cook, said: “The immediate impact of the company’s folding will see Jamaica losing up to half of the 1,800 passengers who were booked to arrive on rotation flights from Manchester, England, from Monday, September 23 – October 31.
“The overall impact could potentially see Jamaica lose just over US$10 million in earnings from a fallout in flight bookings of between 10,000 and 11,000 passengers”, Bartlett said.
Inevitable, there will be negative social and economic impact throughout the islands, heavily dependent on a tourism economy.
Considering the ensuing interventions being pursued to mitigate the potential fallout from Virgin Atlantic – Thomas Cook; defending the credibility, viability, and policy to explore the most effective solution(s) is hardly the adventure of immature representation and frivolity, routinely dramatized by tourism minister Fedee.