The argument has always been made that Caribbean tourism would be worse off without LIAT; no matter how badly its reputation has been hurt by its own actions of lateness, unprofessional customer service and regular baggage losses.
A close look at the tourism sector of St. Kitts and Nevis and the most recent figures released by the St. Christopher Air & Sea Ports Authority, (SCASPA), reveal that LIAT accounted for almost 40,000 of the 130,690 stay over passengers that arrived in the country last year, (2011). With the transfer of 38,652, LIAT was the second top airline, behind American Airlines, in terms of passengers being brought into the country.
This also underscores the great importance of intra-regional travel, which continues to suffer from the lack of serious attention and marketing focus by hoteliers and other regional tourism stakeholders.
The SCASPA figures indicate that the 130,690 passengers who arrived by air in 2011, was just slightly higher than the 127,512 in 2010, an increase of 3,178 passengers or 2.49 percent.
No break down however, was provided for the places of origin of these passengers; key information that would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the performances of the various source markets.
The same statistics from SCASPA also indicate 131,750 passengers departed the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport in 2011 compared to 127,669 passengers in 2010.
These figures do not however account for passenger movement into and out of the Vance Amory Airport in Nevis, the other half of the two island federation. Air access on that island however has been severely affected in recent years, with significant changes made by traditional carriers American Eagle and LIAT.
Many of the arrivals into St. Kitts however, are in fact tourists and residents whose final port is Nevis.
American Airlines, which operates daily flights from Miami and twice weekly flights from New York, into the Robert Bradshaw International Airport, in Basseterre, accounted for 56,058 inward bound passengers and 54,556 outward bound.
Its sister carrier, American Eagle, brought in 12,621 passengers and took out 14,141, while there were 8,329 inward bound passengers and 8,391 outward bound passengers on British Airways.
US Airways was responsible for a mere 5,080 inward bound passengers and 5,140 outward bound passengers, while Delta Air had 4,516 inward bound passengers and 4,528 outward bound. Meanwhile, Miami Air accounted for 1,374 arriving passengers and 1,194 departing passengers.
Passengers travelling on private or corporate jets are said to have accounted for 1,858 inward bound passengers and 1,694 outward bound passengers. Additionally, 1,725 passengers arrived and 1,558 passengers departed on non-commercial or small aircraft.
SCASPA also outlined that Air Canada, which began a weekly service to St. Kitts’ Robert Bradshaw International Airport in December, 2011, brought in 380 passengers and took out 237.
The Port Authority officials indicated that for the whole of last year, a total of 6,012 flights landed compared to 6,409 in 2010, down 6.19 percent. There was also a 6.03 percent drop in outward bound flights, from 6,003 in 2011 compared to 6,388 in 2010.
However, inward cargo decreased from 890 tonnes in 2010 to 744.30 tonnes in 2011, down 16.38 percent but outward bound cargo increased 5.38 percent to 585.26 tonnes compared to 555.36 tonnes in 2010.