The vexing issue of affordable and reliable intra-regional travel will be the focus of attention when the new LIAT CEO, Captain Ian Brunton, makes his maiden appearance at the region’s premier tourism gathering next week.
Brunton, who took over at the helm of the regional carrier in August, will join a panel of creative thinkers seeking to identify solutions to a problem which has plagued Caribbean travellers for a number of years.
The session, “The Challenge of Regional Transportation – Where is the Solution?” is one of several explosive and provocative plenaries organised by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) as part of the State of the Industry Conference carded for October 10-12 in St Kitts.
“Regional travel is a focal point of concern for our member countries,” said Hugh Riley, the CTO’s secretary general. “Caribbean people are longing for a service that is convenient, reliable and affordable.”
The secretary general added that there is a perception that it is often cheaper to travel from the Caribbean to the United States than from one Caribbean country to another.
“There’s something wrong with that. For this and other reasons the topic is of critical importance,” he explained.
Intra-regional travel has been beset by high fares and inadequate access, among other challenges, which tourism officials contend hinder development of the important regional tourism sector.
Meanwhile, delegates attending the meeting are being given the opportunity to make early bookings at discounted rates offered by LIAT.
The airline has entered into a partnership with the CTO offering delegates and participants an opportunity to pay less for their journey to St Kitts for the conference.
LIAT has often struggled to turn a profit in its near 50-year history, relying on shareholder governments to keep it flying. The money woes have made it hard for the airline to keep fares low.
The airline also suffered a multi-million dollar setback earlier this year when a major hangar caught fire here.
Regional airfares dropped in the early 2000s when Caribbean Star Airlines offered direct competition to LIAT.
That came to an end in 2007 with the downfall of its owner – the disgraced financier Allen Stanford.
Red Jet then offered a somewhat false dawn in recent years when it began operations claiming to be the first low carrier for the region. But that airline ran into administrative problems and was forced to close.