With all the pleasantries and the compliments having been showered on Owen Arthur, the former Barbados Prime Minister, on his elevation to the Chairmanship of LIAT, and the kudos given to Dr. Jean Holder, who served in that position, it is now down to basics for work to begin on improving the fortunes of the regional airline, if it has not started already.
Arthur received loads of support and compliments and so did Dr. Jean Holder, who served with distinction. All of that is now history as we look to see what can be done in terms of improvements for the island-hopping carrier.
Up front it won’t be easy and will be a tall order to bring about the improvements, which are very necessary for Arthur and his team of board members, comprising some private sector representatives, in effecting the transformation of LIAT.
Along with Caribbean Airlines, they both provide useful air transport services to the destinations they are serving in the Caribbean. Unlike other carriers which operate from international destinations to this region, LIAT does not enjoy that luxury and so the Board has to make the Caribbean market work for LIAT.
Coming also at a time when airlines globally have to confront the dreaded Coronavirus, which can have a negative impact on air travel, the issue for LIAT going forward will not be easy.
As a business, LIAT has to grow its revenue and profitability and must be positioned to have a very sustainable future and operations.
The onus therefore is to boost revenue and to cut costs, and to impress on Caribbean governments that they need to lower the taxes, which are levied on airline tickets. It will also be necessary to make it attractive for other shareholder governments across the Caribbean, to come on board.
There is a view that if the taxes are lowered or removed from the travel tickets, this would be a boost to regional travel including business travel.
Given the financial straightjacket some governments are in when it comes to revenue-raising measures, Arthur will know what is possible from what is not re those taxes. The airline also has to be restructured and there is no getting away from this, however much it can proved to be painful for some governments.
When he spoke at the news conference hosted by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) some weeks ago, the President Dr. Warren Smith had high hopes for LIAT with Arthur at the helm. The President believes that Arthur, having served for 15 years as Prime Minister of Barbados, will do a good job.
Dr. Smith had told members of the media that his expectation is that there will be some progress, noting that the role LIAT plays in the regional transportation business is vital to Caribbean economies.
It would be recalled that twice LIAT would have come face to face with new competition players in Carib Express and REDjet.
The operators of those two had seen something of an opening in the regional airlines transportation market and took the opportunity to take on LIAT (and BWIA – now Caribbean Airlines).
Eventually however, for one reason or another, they did not last that long and as the story went LIAT was able to continue.
It is therefore within our power to improve LIAT for the benefit of Caribbean people. (The Barbados Advocate)