By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchombe said yesterday he is targeting an additional one million airline seats to the Bahamas, telling Tribune Business that 500,000 more per annum will be needed to ensure hotel rooms can be filled when Baha Mar opens in 2014.
Speaking with Tribune Business yesterday following a brief ceremony celebrating construction on Baha Mar’s casino reaching the 100-foot mark, Mr Wilchombe said he was confident that the necessary airlift could be attained.
“When you think about Baha Mar alone, we will need another 500,000 seats just to make sure that we can fill the hotel room count that we are going to have in 2014,” he told Tribune Business.
“What I’m really going after is about one million more seats for the Bahamas right now. We don’t have the numbers that we need right now. We want to get them up significantly.”
Tourism exeuctives and major industry stakeholders have been targeting key carriers as part of a strategy to create additional airlift, in a bid to support the expanded hotel room inventory set to come on stream within the next two years. The Bahamas received a total of 1.34 million air arrivals in 2011, representing a drop of more than 2 per cent compared to 2010.
Mr Wilchombe said his ministry intends to embark on a very aggressive marketing campaign to tap into new markets for the Bahamas, and capitalise on existing ones.
Mr Wilchombe said the Ministry of Tourism would spend around $20 million on its marketing campaign. “What we are doing is we have backed down from some of the things that they were doing before. We have pulled back some of the contracts they would have had before where there would have even been duplications,”he said.
“What we are doing now is we are going to have a deputy director-general responsible for Latin America, one for Europe and one for Asia. We are going after the continents, and we are going to get some big business. Our plan is to go after all these markets, so we will have a very diverse and aggressive campaign. I am very optimistic about it.”