By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia — Virgin Atlantic has announced a review to its global flying programme that will cease flying to Saint Lucia from June 8, 2020 ‘for the foreseeable future’.
“The proposed changes mean we will increase flights from London Gatwick to Antigua boosting from three per week to four per week, from 8 June 2020. Our Havana service will also move from London Gatwick to Heathrow and will remain the UK’s only direct scheduled flight to Havana.
“It’s never easy to withdraw from a destination and it’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly, and we’d like to thank you for your loyalty in supporting this route over the last 21 years,” Virgin’s statement to partners continued.
“After June 7, 2020, flights to Grenada and Tobago will now connect through Antigua. Additional changes to our Gatwick network will include new routes to North America, together with joint venture partner Delta Air Lines. As we announced earlier this year, we intend to grow from London Gatwick with new routes to New York JFK and Boston,” the statement said.
A combination of government negotiating skills or lack there off, market savvy, Hewanorra International Airport (HIA) re-development project, changing dynamics in the tourism industry, local and international market influence, demonstrates that the claimed wizardry of Saint Lucia’s prime minister, a distorted tourism authority and a tourism minister of zero introspection shows that there not as powerful as they think they are beyond performative theatre.
With a government and policymakers that are indifference to facts of value but just triviality, leader of the opposition Philip J. Pierre explained the following.
“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.”
“This is not something that the opposition is happy about. But then we have a prime minister that does not listen and said we lost our right to speak following the general election, and as such has absolutely no regard, and doesn’t answer our letters. The result is affirmative inexperience and constant errors of a distasteful gift-wrapped empty box.”
“However, I want to say one thing. Government policy is very dynamic and when a government goes ahead and gives private enterprise state funds, [OJO Labs, Desert Star Holdings (DSH), Cabot Links], almost as if it’s a right; government gives the impression that there is state money to go around, choosing winners and losers, wittingly or unwittingly, this has a bearing on the actions of the private sector.”
“I want to reiterate. We are very saddened by the news of Virgin Atlantic going out of Saint Lucia, after 21 years following my successful negotiations to bring the airline to our shores.
“Further, local policy impacts heavily on what happens in the tourism industry; Saint Lucia’s number one earner and exporter. So meanwhile the government sometimes gives the impression that they are in control of what happens in tourism, many things transpire in the industry that the government has absolutely no influence on, including matters outside of Saint Lucia,” Pierre continued.
“Therefore, this is a very unfortunate day for the people of Saint Lucia and the government should explain to the public why suddenly, Virgin Atlantic has left our shores,” he said.
In a statement Friday [ July 27] Saint Lucia’s minister for tourism Dominic Fedee reads in full:
Over the past months, the government of Saint Lucia has been in talks with Virgin Atlantic as it relates to the airline’s flights to our destination.
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 USD7.5 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.
In fact, upon hearing the news that Virgin Atlantic has requested subsidies from four Caribbean governments, namely Grenada, Tobago, Antigua, and Saint Lucia, other airlines have been in talks with respective governments.
While the government of Saint Lucia appreciates the need for governments to share the financial risk on new flights until the maturing of the route, Virgin’s requests goes against our principle having been in Saint Lucia for 21 years.
Saint Lucia presently supports Virgin Atlantic flights with marketing agreements annually but presently has no subsidy arrangements with any airline in any other tourism market. Virgin Atlantic represents seven percent of total UK arrivals.
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.
Year to date, May 2019, Saint Lucia has recorded an 18 percent growth from the UK market over the same period last year. We anticipate even further growth with our restructured marketing thrust to maximize more of our marketing spend on brand Saint Lucia.
From all indications, the demand for Saint Lucia in the UK Market among Caribbean destinations is second only to Barbados and continues to be one of the most aspirational Caribbean destinations for UK travelers.
We will continue to dialogue with Virgin Atlantic to arrive at a possible mutually beneficial relationship sometime in the future. [Ends the statement]
The optics of the matter and use of language is oblivious of the narrative to sway the authenticity to the reality that Virgin Atlantic will cease flying to Saint Lucia for the foreseeable future after 21 years.
The case study here is the equivalence to the impact on the economy, basic business civility, complacency, regional/international travel, uncompromising public policy and primary attributes of the government of Saint Lucia indifference to facts and data.