Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) is teaming up with partners in the private sector to help boost Grand Bahama’s ailing tourism sector.
The government is strategizing with the Grand Bahama Airport Company and Freeport Harbour Company on ways to increase air arrivals to the island, according to David Johnson, Director General of Tourism at MOTA.
“I’m convinced that our efforts will deliver the return of mainline jets operating non-stop flights that will reposition Grand Bahama uniquely and competitively in a number of markets,” he said. “There is a spirit of ‘let’s make it happen’ and we are moving swiftly, so we might begin to reverse the precipitous decline in air arrivals that we have experienced in Grand Bahama.”
There is currently only one international air service into Grand Bahama–the seasonal flight from Toronto, operated by WestJet, which runs from April to November–and, according to Johnson, rising fuel prices could deter other airlines from adding Freeport to their routes.
Now the government is collaborating with the private sector to enhance Grand Bahama’s profile as a hub for the Caribbean and other destinations throughout The Bahamas. MOTA also hopes to cut airfares by as much as 50 per cent and reduce travel times.
Johnson said the dip in air arrivals was a sign of more entrenched problems in the island’s economy.
“The lack of airlift in Grand Bahama is not the problem, it is a symptom,” he explained “It is an indicator of stakeholders in the public and private sector not fighting sufficiently, losing the battle to make this destination more competitive. We need to think about being competitive–that drives airlift.”
The Director General, who addressed the Grand Bahama Business Outlook Conference held at the Our Lucaya resort last month, also called on the tourism sector to take a more pro-active approach and to follow the example set by cruise lines in extracting revenue from customers. “These operators take strict and effective business decisions and they are not playing a passive role, as many land-based operators do, waiting for business to come their way or relying on third parties,” he said.
“Successful destinations are ones that position themselves to have a unique and competitive advantage that they can and do capitalize on.”
MOTA is also hoping to establish a fast ferry service linking Grand Bahama to such destinations as the Abacos and Bimini. “We anticipate concluding negotiations with a world leader in fast ferry operations to establish a base that serves the Northern Bahamas,” said Johnson.
“We are repositioning, re-examining and doing what’s necessary to be competitive. I am convinced that through our new and more collaborative efforts, we can and will reverse Grand Bahama’s economic slide.”