Air Transport World

Same pie, bigger slices. The Caribbean tourism market is flat, although losing Eastern and Pan Am has brought a rise in traffic for the survivors. (Caribbean airline industry; Eastern Air Lines Inc.; Pan American World AirWays Inc.)

The Caribbean tourism market is flat, although losing Eastern and Pan Am has brought a rise in traffic for the survivors

As a surprise to virtually no one, the Caribbean tourism market during the brief Middle East skirmish and current U.S. recession has been . . . how shall we put this . . . not wonderful. Okay, it's lousy. Tourism traffic started dropping throughout the islands in late 1989-early 1990 and has been flat ever since. The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) reluctantly is projecting about a 5% drop for 1991 once all the figures are in.

The North American airlines serving the Caribbean, however, are showing a slight upswing, since Eastern and Pan Am--both now out of business--held the biggest slices of the capacity pie going into the West Indies.

While this year's tourism market is being viewed "with guarded optimism," according to CTO Marketing Director Michael Youngman, a prediction is difficult because of a change in booking habits. Whereas vacationers traditionally have booked 3-4 months in advance, the bookings now are coming in around 30-40 days in advance.

The airlines involved are seeing a slightly more optimistic picture. According to Horace Hord, American Airlines' marketing director-Atlantic/Caribbean, January and February bookings were soft, "but still better than in 1991." He said that December, 1991 figures were "about 20%" better than the same month in 1990 and that "that pattern should hold."

Over all, this year generally is expected to pick up to about 1989 levels, with the next high tourist season--'92-93--continuing to improve, depending on the U.S. economy.

One thing that will help the recovery is a change in marketing philosophies and in airline operations. One of the biggest changes in the latter is the increased competition within the Caribbean itself, which has forced some Caribbean airlines either completely out of business or into a search for partners, while improving the overall service of the stronger carriers. Most of the larger, government owned, Caribbean airlines are trying to become sufficiently healthy to attract private investors. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.