Barbados Former Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy has taken a swipe at regional leaders, who he said were expected to take over the routes left void by the fall of LIAT 1974 ltd.
Instead, Sealy said these leaders are “hopping and hobbling from pillar to post and there is no serious planning taking place”
Shareholder governments of LIAT have met on several occasions to discuss the future of the airline with no definitive decision taken.
While the issue of severance for the former LIAT workers who were sent home when the airline plunged during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is still up in the air, regional leaders are busy trying to put together a new entity while liquidating LIAT 1974 LTD.
Sealy is appealing to the Mia Motley government to seriously focus its attention on interregional travel and Barbados’ tourism.
“We have a real problem in that regard. We were very quick to kiss LIAT goodbye and we thought that all of these different regional players would be tripping over each other to come and take over the routes. It has not occurred, and in places where they have taken over, the prices have been astronomically high,” he said in an interview with Loop News.
Adding., “I think that while I salute the entrepreneurism, the CEO of InterCaribbean, Gardiner out of Turks and Caicos, he has been trying to get into Barbados for a very long time and I think that his approach of incrementally increasing his network, and of course now he’s getting a larger aircraft, even that, that makes sense, we still have a mish-mash. We still have very important routes that are underserviced and in essence, what we need to do is to sit down and develop a serious plan.”
Furthermore, he said where LIAT is concerned, the government remained tight-lipped on the matter.
“We haven’t heard anything sincere from this government in that regard. That is very important, not only from a tourism perspective but indeed from a point of view of our overall economic development. We are a services-based economy. We speak of diversifying away from tourism and the travel that takes place between the islands, especially the Eastern Caribbean, is critical for Barbados’ development,” he added.
“I think the government can’t just ignore the issue and hope for CAL (Caribbean Airlines) or InterCaribbean or hope for Air Antilles out of the French Caribbean to just pick up the slack. They’re not just gonna pick it up” Sealy stated
LIAT, according to him, had an extensive network, “they had 11 aircraft flying the region at one point. You not gonna just replace that with a few flights here and a few flights there”
Sealy said a “serious plan” must be taken where LIAT is concerned, saying further that “it has to be intergovernmental”
“I understand it is not only the Barbados government involved but that is where again, most like the case with tourism, that is where you see the real headache about this government coming into play. They are very good at responding to issues on social media and they’re very good at spinning things and painting a lovely picture but we don’t hear any serious, articulate plans about where we are taking the country as far as tourism, where are we taking the country as far as interregional travel. Where are we taking the country as far as aviation and maritime transport?” he added.