By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas is playing “catch up” on a number of aviation safety reforms that should have been implemented two to three years ago, a Cabinet Minister said yesterday, acknowledging that deficiencies in this area could hurt the country’s tourist destination reputation.
With the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) set to undertake an audit on this country’s aviation safety regime, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said work had been done to ensure the Bahamas was given the ‘thumbs up’.
“I think the minster responsible for aviation and their team are doing all they can to ensure that everything is in place,” he added.
“Obviously we don’t want to have a situation where we are ever downgraded because it will hurt your reputation. We are playing catch up to a number of things that should have been done two or three years ago that were not done. They are working hard to get everything up to speed to make sure our facilities are properly audited and are given the thumbs up.”
As to the potential impact of the FAA’s findings on the tourism sector, Mr Wilchcombe said: “It will depend on what they have to say.
“If they make any claims about safety then, of course, people would be concerned about travelling to a destination that has a difficulty with its major airport. We depend now on so many people travelling to our country from the United States, North America generally, Canada, Latin America and Europe, we have to appreciate the fact that we have to send the message that the Bahamas offers a tremendous destination and safety is fundamental.”
Sky Bahamas chief executive, Captain Randy Butler, recently told this newspaper he was “not confident” the Bahamas would pass its audit by the US, warning that a downgrade to Category 2 status would inhibit the expansion plans of his and other local airlines.
While “hopeful” that the Bahamas would receive a ‘clean bill of health’, Captain Butler based his lack of confidence on a 2011 follow-up audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which said the Bahamas had failed to implement many of the recommendations contained in a 2009 report for improving its aviation regulatory regime.
But, unlike Captain Butler, Captain Patrick Rolle, director of the Civil Aviation Department (CAD), told Tribune Business recently that the Bahamas’ prospects of maintaining its Category 1 status with the US were “pretty good”.