A strategic collaboration between European airlines Air France and KLM with regional airline WINAIR is working in the BVI’s favour by connecting the Territory to not only countries in Europe but Asia, Africa and the Pacific as well.
The details of the agreement and its benefits to the Territory were disclosed when representatives from the three companies met here in the Territory with tourism and travel stakeholders at a marketing meeting.
The presenters at the meeting were Martin Ten Broecke for Air France and KLM, Claudio Buncamper and Michael Cleaver for Winair; the discussions presented an avenue for the BVI stakeholders to be updated on flight schedules, traffic patterns and growth of European market.
Amongst the attendees where representatives of the BVI Tourist Board & Film Commission, Charter Yacht Association, Travel Plan Ltd, Travel Wize, Peter Island Resort & Spa, Surfsong Villa Resort, BVI Villa Rentals, and Treasure Isle Hotel.
Chief among the discussions was the mention of a planned code share between Winair and KLM, which is expected to enhance connections to the BVI via the hub facilities of St Maarten, Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle Airports.
This new code share agreement is expected to make a positive impact on the market as it was noted that the growth in the French market to the BVI has experienced 100% yearly increases since inception of the code share agreement between Winair and Air France. “Now we will truly unite the entire Air France, KLM and Winair route structures. With this we will offer better connectivity at lower prices to the BVI and the Caribbean region,” the companies announced.
Keith Dawson, Marketing Manager of the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board attended the meeting and told The Island Sun newspaper that the gathering was a step in the right direction. He also disclosed that the parties involved promised to continue this type of engagement periodically throughout the year.
As it relates to the presentations that were made at the meeting and the benefits to the Territory Mr. Dawson said: “The British Virgin Islands Tourist Board welcomes the forward approach by Winair with its airline partners Air France and KLM to visit the Territory to inform the local tourism industry on its initiatives to further develop service in this market as well as to receive feedback on the needs of the market.”
“We see Winair as a valuable partner in providing greater access to the Territory particularly from the major European markets even while we redouble our efforts in developing those markets,” he added.
Travel Stakeholders Perspective
Mr. Luther Butler, the Managing Director of Travel Wize and Byron Wheatley Senior Travel Consultant and Shareholder of Travel Wize Ltd attended the meeting and told The Island Sun newspaper that the main theme of the meeting was the collaboration between Air France/KLM/Winair to increase connection services into the BVI to/from the European Market via their respective hubs in Paris France and Amsterdam, Holland.
“This is a market which is crucial to our tourism product and after the US, Europe is our second most popular tourism market. From Europe one can also connect to other countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific so that is another option for us. The Winair connection via their connections with Caribbean Airlines, Copa and Insel Air also provides connections to frequently traveled Caribbean destinations like Jamaica, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Haiti and even South and Central America eg. Guyana, Panama, Brazil to name a few,” Mr. Butler stated.
The Managing Director of Travel Wize also confirmed that the agreement adds to the BVI’s tourism sector, and said that he is doing his part to sell the package: “In my opinion it is a good initiative and this improvement in air access is vital to our tourism product. I will do my best to promote and sell it to ensure that it is a success, but I assume other efforts are being made in Europe and other tourist markets like China, Brazil and Hong Kong.”
He further noted that the agreement includes expanded access which means more visitors to the Territory: “Winair uses a 16-seater twin otter and originally they operated four flights daily EIS/SXM/EIS but now due to the new investment this winter in the BVI they have increased their flights to six/and some days eight during the winter. That means they have increased their capacity to 32- 64 seats depending on the day,” he explained,
The Travel expert also advocated for more agreements similar to the Winair/KLM/Air France collaboration: “I really believe that the BVI Government should look at trying to convince other airlines/ferries to increase and maximise their connections to the major hubs in the region ie. Antigua, St. Maarten, San Juan and St. Thomas. This to me is a far less expensive and better alternative at this time to the controversial airport expansion,” Butler announced.
In recent years St. Maarten and St. Thomas have become important hubs for BVI tourism while San Juan has lost some of its luster due to the discontinuation of American Eagle flights.