By Felicia Persaud
News Americas, FRIGATE Bay, St. Kitts, Fri. Oct. 12, 2012: “We have to integrate.”
That’s the word from new CEO of LIAT (Leeward Islands Air Transport), Captain Ian Brunton. The new head of the 56-year-old often criticized carrier made the comment as he addressed the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s State of the Industry Conference’s panel on the challenges of regional transportation in St. Kitts Thursday.
Brunton acknowledged high cost of travel on the carrier regionally and the challenges of timely service, but laid the blame largely on the high cost of fuel and government taxes. He said 30-50 percent of each ticket is largely government taxes and this has resulted in the airline seeing a drop off of over 20 percent since 2008.
The LIAT CEO told the audience that with such overheads, labor contract challenges, and with 39 flights to 18 of the 21 destinations the carrier serves being unprofitable, the way forward is undoubtedly consolidation.
“That’s the solution … the only or main one I think in order to take regional travel to higher heights,” said Brunton. “We have to get together. There is no way around it.”
His insight came as Winfield Griffith, director of research at the CTO, disclosed that intra-Caribbean travel accounts for seven percent of total tourism business of the region with most of the travel being leisure and business.