While Grenada has recorded a 19 per cent overall increase in tourist arrival in 2014 and 2 per cent growth is projected for 2015, there is talk in the travel industry that all is not well with some of the airlines flying in and out of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
A leading travel agent confirmed that the country could see a reduction in seats to the Spice Isle in coming months as some airline companies cut back on visits to Grenada.
He told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that the island could loose at least 20 per cent of seats on Condor Airlines, which resumed direct flights from Frankfurt, Germany to MBIA in November 2014, and could cut back on the service very soon.
It is also alleged that Trinidad-based Caribbean Airlines, has virtually pulled out its Thursday flight from Grenada to Trinidad and its non-stop flight straight into Toronto.
Our News Desk approached Corporate Communications Officer with the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), Chrislyn Lashington for reaction to the report making the rounds in the local travel industry about the possible loss of some airline seats in the coming weeks.
She dismissed “the rumors” and affirmed that the “records from the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA)” show that flights on board Caribbean Airlines continue to Grenada with “two per day Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Friday’s, one to Toronto on Sunday’s, and one Thursday’s and Saturday’s from New York.”
However, she did indicate that the Trinidad air carrier was in the process of “rescheduling” its flights routine and that some other airlines engage in only seasonal flights to Grenada; something the GTA official regarded as “very customary,” as is the case of Delta Airlines and Condor airlines.
“We tend to see …. increased visitor arrival in the winter months (from October to April), that we have flights running through that season and then some would not run during the summer season and then start back again (for winter), she remarked.
Lashington admitted that the “April 4 flight was the end of the schedule for flights coming in from New York” from Delta airlines which commenced December 20, 2014.
Former Tourism Minister under the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, Dr. George Vincent was also contacted for comment on the issue and described the reports of a possible loss of seats in the coming months as “not good news”.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY, Dr. Vincent queried: “What has caused that?” “Is there a problem with the experience or the quantities of visitors that are on the plane and is it viable?”
This newspaper understands that the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s has been heavily subsidizing Condor, which made its last flight to the island for the 2014/2015 Winter Season on April 11.
Caribbean Airlines is said to be using the off and on nature of the Toronto flight as a possible bargaining chip with the two-year old government that has been resisting its requests to subsidize airlift into Grenada like other international airlines.
Dr. Vincent, who also serves as a Senator in the country’s Parliament said he is still awaiting a response to a question posed during a recent sitting of the Upper House in relation to the existing contract signed with the German airline.
“I am sure that we are subsidising heavily the seats on the plane,” he said, adding “if it (Condor) is being subsidised and they are pulling out, we must take note and be aware that things are not as rosy as we pretend them to be,” he added.
According to Dr. Vincent, if it is true that Caribbean Airlines is not flying the Toronto route on a consistent basis then “this means dozens of seats lost”, and “we need to find out what is the situation.”
The former Tourism minister acknowledged that, “yes there is a high season and a low season, but we must work towards bringing visitors during the off- season”.
“It is really, really important…because what we find happening is that properties and businesses and tour operators do quite well during the high season but in the low season it’s really stressful and people can go under.”
Amidst reports in industry circles that Delta Airlines is expected to reduce flights to the island, Tourism Minister Yolande Bain-Hosford has announced that the airline would commence a new flight to Grenada from Atlanta in June.
In delivering her Ministerial statement to the Lower House of Parliament last week Friday, the female government minister made no mention of the lost of seats from some airlines.
However, she disclosed that Grenada could see an additional flight coming in via the Venezuela-based Conviasa Airline and expressed excitement with the new Delta service expected from Atlanta on June 6 and the inaugural Jet Blue service expected on June 11 from New York.