Dear Editor: We can’t increase Caribbean integration when it’s cheaper to fly to Miami than Barbados

“[…] Decreased airfare is one way to stimulate intra-regional travel for both business and leisure.

“Studies show that increased visitor arrivals lead to increased economic activity—more tax collection, increased employment, and general stimulation of economies…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the disproportionately high airfares within the Caribbean was submitted by Dennise Demming, the co-licensee of TedXPortofSpain and former Tourism chair:

Care to visit Barbados?

The airfare to Miami is less than to Barbados, so tell me, why should I visit Barbados?

If Caricom is to realize the goal of promoting economic integration and cooperation among Caribbean people, then we must have access to each other. High regional airfares between countries act as a disincentive to regional travel. Taxes, Fees, and Charges (TFC) account for 40% of airfares.

Imagine the boost to intra-regional travel that would occur if airfare went down by 40%!

In 2019, over 20,000 citizens in the Caribbean and its diaspora signed a petition asking Caribbean leaders to review the current TFC regime on intra-regional travel and take action to reduce the high travel taxes applied to regional travel. The petition was championed by the lobby group: “Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Caribbean Travel Taxes (CAHIRTT)”.

So far there has been no response to those tens of thousands of citizens who tried to make their voices heard. In seeking support for their petition CAHIRTT commented that: “Over-taxing regional travel is counter-productive to regional connectivity and the growth and productivity of our economies.”

Miami South Beach is a regular jaunt for tourists.

The region’s annual hotel occupancy averages 60%, which means that 40 rooms are continuously empty in a 100-room hotel. Imagine if another 20 or 30 rooms could be occupied continuously. Decreased airfare is one way to stimulate intra-regional travel for both business and leisure.

Studies show that increased visitor arrivals lead to increased economic activity—more tax collection, increased employment, and general stimulation of economies. If the region ever needed economic stimulation the time is now.

A recent article in the Trinidad Express by Asha Javeed quoted Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) as stating that: “As part of our strategic plan, we continue to focus on improving regional connectivity. Caribbean Airlines enjoys the largest network in the region, with plans to expand, within the ambit of our resources.” 

Lift off on Caribbean Airlines…

I welcome this focus because regional connectivity is important for our region to thrive.

It is our reality that measured on a per-mile flown basis the Caribbean region tops world airfares. As the primary owners of CAL, the Trinidad and Tobago Government must lead the charge and reduce the 40% TFC on airline tickets in the region. Such bold action will help CAL achieve its strategic objective of “improving regional connectivity” and provide support for Caricom to achieve its main purpose of promoting “economic integration and cooperation among its members”.

So, we must aim for the day when a ticket to Barbados is lower than the price of a ticket to Miami.

This Barbados/Miami analogy is being used to make the point that the price of intra-regional travel must inspire citizens to travel both for business and pleasure.

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3 comments

  1. An intended visit to St. Vincent left me disappointed to see about my ancestry. Imagine how difficult it is to get a flight form Trinidad to St Vincent is to my mind incredible, the fares are impossible…USD..I could easily fly from Trinidad to Miami for less. When the authorities make regional transport more accessibe to the man in the street then I would consider. Any progressive, economically-sensible move to reduce TFC to encourage Caribbean travel and cooperation is a must.

  2. Caricom works better in New York, Toronto and London than in the Caribbean because that is where Caribbean people actually meet and mingle. It is time for full freedom of movement for Caribbean nationals within Caricom.

  3. So true. Those who have disposable income regularly travel to Miami for weekends especially Jamaicans. This would be a bold, progressive, economically-sensible move to reduce TFC to encourage Caribbean travel and cooperation but I dare not hold my breath!

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