Tobago has been retained as a destination on Virgin Atlantic’s 2021 summer schedule but this time the flights will emanate and conclude at London’s Heathrow Airport. This was announced in a recent release by the airline.
It comes after Virgin had indicated it was preparing to initiate major layoffs and cancel its operation out of Gatwick.
In a past interview with Tobago Tourism Agency (TTA) CEO, Louis Lewis, he explained that Virgin’s crisis could mean more opportunity for Tobago if the flights were coming from Manchester.
But even as the flight are coming from Heathrow, Lewis told Guardian Media (GML) yesterday that the upsides are still present. “I think there are still the same opportunities as if it were coming from Manchester.”
Lewis added, “That being that there is connectivity with the rest of Europe, which makes it an interesting proposition because now, people say, because it’s a hub with Europe we have the ability to connect with other markets with which we are strong like the Scandinavian region; so it’s very interesting for us.”
Responding to questions posed by Guardian Media, Virgin Atlantic noted that it has included the former Gatwick destinations in it’s Heathrow operations. However, the airline noted that the St Lucia route that was cancelled was done pre COVID-19.
When asked about Tobago’s inclusion on the flight schedule Lewis said: “It is not an accident, we are in contact with them directly all the time and this is to some extent part of our negotiations taking place.”
Lewis said that currently Tobago is not sure about what destination it would be pegged with as flights come from Heathrow to the Caribbean.
He explained that the Virgin flight from London has always been shared with another destination, a practice executed with most destinations in the region.
For example, before COVID-19, Tobago was shared with St Lucia, meaning that the flight from Gatwick came to St Lucia then to Tobago. It also stopped over in St Lucia on its way back to Gatwick.
He noted, however, when St Lucia cancelled with Virgin, Tobago was supposed to be shared with Antigua, but it never came to pass because of the pandemic.
This arrangement was supposed to be in place until the June 28, but Virgin Atlantic is not coming back to Tobago before the June 28.
Therefore details on the future arrangements have to be reconfigured and finalised. The TTA CEO noted that he will be updated on the details for shared destination arrangements on May 15, 2020.
The negotiations will revolve around the chosen destination and whether the flight will come to Tobago before the named destination.
Lewis said that, providing vaccines are released, Tobago should be a vibrant tourist destination by the summer of 2021.
“We’re expecting it to rebound eventually, but like everybody else, there is so much uncertainty ahead of us, that it is a course that we have to navigate very carefully.”
Once the tourism industry recovers, Lewis expressed his assurance in that Tobago would be a part of “what is buzzing.”