By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government is trying to “get Bahamasair back in” to service Treasure Cay, the minister of tourism describing the carrier as “critical” to increasing airlift and connectivity to the Family Islands.
Obie Wilchcombe’s comments came after North Abaco resort operators and residents expressed concern over the lack of affordable airlift in light of Bahamasair’s decision to discontinue its service into Treasure Cay back in September.
While Bahamasair executives said that Treasure Cay essentially “lacked the capacity” to be a commercially viable service, resort operators in particular said the lack of affordable airlift was placing North Abaco tourism in danger of collapse.
Mr Wilchcombe said: “We’re looking at it. Obviously Bahamasair has to play a greater role. Bahamasair says it was a strategic move on their part. We have to look at it and see how we can get them back in.
“I wish to emphasise that Bahamasair must play a greater role in the development of our country. When it was created it was to link the country and bring the communities together.
“Now, Bahamasair has a role to help us grow the economy. We need more airlift to the Family Islands. We need more connectivity to the Fmily Islands and we believe that critical to that is Bahamasair.”
Several North Abaco resort operators recently told Tribune Business that rates offered by Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways, the primary carrier into Treasure Cay, were “not affordable”, with prices around $600-$700 round trip between South Florida and Treasure Cay.
Stephen Kappeler, the Treasure Cay Resort, Marina & Golf Club’s general manager, suggested that one of the smaller Bahamian carriers could pick up the slack, noting that the lack of available airlift to support the five resorts in north Abaco was “devastating”.
Mr Kappeler said the Treasure Cay Resort Marina & Golf Club, comprised of 95 rooms and suites, was being adversely impacted by the lack of affordable airlift.
“We’re generally running at 20 per cent right now with this lack of available airlift. It’s hurting the property. This situation is impacting jobs,” said Mr Kappeler.
Molly McIntosh, assistant general manager with responsibility for sales at the Green Turtle Club, expressed similar concerns to this newspaper.
“Bahamasair has stopped flying into Treasure Cay. We are not sure if they will come back or not when things get busier, but it doesn’t look good” said Ms McIntosh.
“The ‘Two Fly Free’ from Nassau special that is being promoted by the Ministry of Tourism never worked the best for our property, but it is not working at all now as the guest has to fly into Marsh Harbour, take an $85 cab ride from Marsh Harbour to catch the Green Turtle Ferry in Treasure Cay, and then, in almost every case, pay for an $85 charter ferry to get to any points on Green Turtle Cay.”
She added: “Silver Airways is providing a good service into Treasure Cay from Fort Lauderdale, and to Marsh Harbour from Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, but they have very limited availability and at prices that are the highest I have ever seen - often between $600 and $700 round trip per person.”