(MENAFN - Caribbean News Now) By Adrian Loveridge
Have we reached a crossroads, or perhaps the more skeptical, may refer to as an almost insurmountable hurdle in our tourism development?
Returning on a near-capacity Virgin Atlantic B747-400 from Gatwick last week, I was initially surprised that just before landing, over the public address system, a member of the flight crew advised to try and get off the aircraft as soon as possible, as a British Airways flight was landing right behind us and to try and minimize the predicted long immigration processing queues.
In fact, not only the British Airways B777-200 followed us in, but also an American Airlines B738, within subsequent seconds.
By now, under not one but two governments, most would have thought the millions of dollars spent on the Automated Passport Kiosks would be fully operational for all arrivals. But no, over two years (November 2016) after installation, they are restricted to a very few, seemingly just Barbadians and those with permanent status in Barbados.
Even before the British Airways plane had barely opened its doors the long line of Virgin passengers were already out the terminal door.
If the other two aircraft had been close to full that would have meant up to almost 1,000 passengers (depending on model) would be standing in line, within seconds of arrival.
Among them of course, many small children and elderly persons.
What seems amazing is that the carrier, in this case, Virgin Atlantic fully understands the challenges that our limited Immigration facilities pose, but our tourism officials and government (s) appear not to be able or willing to correct the problem.
The naysayers will vocally point out, that this is not a situation unique to Barbados and that delays will be experienced in other destinations like entry airports in the United States including Miami, Charlotte, and New York.
Other Caribbean territories have addressed this by implementing US pre-clearance in their states but sadly, not so far, Barbados.
Even where this had not been introduced, everyone has to stop and think for a moment that the United States is not a tourism-dependent country and similarly, neither is the United Kingdom or Canada.
Staying with the 'dependency' issue, the prime minister, recently highlighted the existing and potential treatments of Sargassum seaweed and is quoted as stating it could be 'as devastating to national economies as a strong tropical storm or category 1 hurricane'.
Few can argue with that conclusion, especially if you have witnessed the consequences, as I recently did on the French West Indian island of St Martin.
Our visitors largely comprehend the nature-driven challenge but need to know that we are seriously trying to cope with the problem, even on a localized basis.
Some do not understand why our comparatively large 'Defence Force (BDF)' cannot be mobilized, at least in public areas where a positive, even if, the temporary difference could be made.
Naturally, it is not what they are trained for, but if this is the threat that is portrayed by those in the highest office, doesn't it make sense?