By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM executives plan to hold talks with up to 12 carriers as part of a strategy to create additional airlift that will support the expanded hotel room inventory set to come on stream in the next two years.
Tourism director-general, David Johnson, told Tribune Business the carriers spoken to so far have pledged their commitment to provide additional airlift.
Mr Johnson said that while airlines were currently not in a position to address their 2014 schedule, the Bahamas delegation was taking steps to inform them on the plans for growth, with additional hotel room inventory expected to come on stream with the opening of Baha Mar in 2014.
Mr Johnson told Tribune Business: “ Network planners are not addressing their 2104 schedule today. We know that, but our meetings were to sensitise them to our plans for growth.
“We have met now with Delta Airlines, we met with American Airlines, and our last meeting was with JetBlue. All of them expressed their confidence that the expansion of the product in Nassau /Paradise Island is very real as far as they are concerned. They are all major players in the destination, and they intend to continue to be strong players, which means that as the product comes on stream they will design ways to ensure that they hold on to their share of the market and not lose market share.”
Mr Johnson added: “Our growth plan was embraced by them. Clearly, as we get closer, in particular by January or February of next year, that’s when we will be in a position to be much more specific in terms of the operating brands being named and being functional in terms of having their networks ready to interface with the carriers.
“That’s when they would expect to be more specific with their responses in terms of timeframe. The meetings we have had went extremely well. The Baha Mar project is not seen as a drain, as some other projects in other destinations are. They have given us the undertaking that they will be responsive to the need to put in the inventory.”
Mr Johnson said a meeting was scheduled with United Airlines in Chicago next week.
“We are meeting with United in Chicago next week,” he added.
“Our agenda is similar. They have already announced the service that they have planned, linking Chicago with Nassau non-stop this coming winter.We are looking to improve on that. I’m satisfied we will, from once a week to a much greater frequency, perhaps to as much as four times a week. We expect that they will likewise give us the assurances that the other carriers have.
“We met wit them before, in November, where we discussed the possibility of the new service they are now putting in place, so this is a follow-up to that to see see how we might get a stronger launch - that is more frequency, and bringing to the table more specifics of the Baha Mar product, which we didn’t have when we met with them in November last year.
Mr Johnson added: “We are talking to as many as 12 carries across the world. We will have a round-up at the world Routes conference. Our team includes NAD, the Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board and a team in my Ministry. We will be with some 12 carriers, including American, Delta and JetBlue, but also a few in Canada and elsewhere in the world, like Latin America and China.”