By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TREASURE Cay has seen a loss of 25 per cent in its vacation rental market due to the unavailability of affordable airlift to the destination, a local resort operator telling Tribune Business, “It’s hurt the economy terribly”.
Stephen Kappeler, the Treasure Cay Resort, Marina and Gold Club’s general manager, said that the lack of affordable airlift was also impacting local resorts, noting that the Treasure Cay Resort was currently only renting 20 of its 96 available rooms because of it.
“With no service into Treasure Cay, that’s a major problem. We are trying to get Bahamasair to give us one flight from either Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale. They are looking at it but I don’t think they have made a decision. The argument for that is that likely 60 per cent of the current inbound traffic that goes into Marsh Harbour - and there are two flights daily - are largely North Abaco persons, so it doesn’t make sense for them having to got into Marsh Harbour, then go 23 miles just to me and then you think of the 30 miles beyond me, that is the rest of Abaco having to pay the price of a taxi fare which is as much or more than the price of a flight. If there are no seats, then no one is booking any rooms and there is a real problem,” said Mr Kappeler.
“It’s terrible. There is 25 per cent of the market which is not back of 1,100 residential units and rentals, and my hotel and The Bluff House and Green Turtle and Bahama Beach Club, 25 per cent because of the lack of those affordable flights,” Mr Kappeler added.
William McLean, a member of the Treasure Cay Owners Association Board, who heads the Beach Villas with 119 homes told Tribune Business: “That lack of airlift is hurting rentals. There are too few flights at exorbitant fares. Bahamas Air could do well from Ft Lauderdale.”
Mr Kappeler said: “We have to have at least a Saturday flight from the states so people can do seven-day packages. It hurt the economy terribly. We are only renting 20 of 96 rooms. To make the economy go, it’s not just one hotel. There’s 1,000 homes, many of which are rentals they can’t rent out. When you look at what the impact has been resort-side, that’s one thing but the impact on the rental business has also been significant. Silver Airways rates are way up. Silver is flying every day but there is no competition. We’re now going into the powerful boating season which they fly in for because the boats are here. If they can’t get here, they won’t be getting on those boats and going from island to island. They’re looking at it so I don’t want to be negative but looking at it means it isn’t fixed and we’re going into May which is the boating season.”
In a previous interview with this newspaper, Bahamasair’s managing director said that the Treasure Cay service lacked the capacity to be commercially viable. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but one that wasn’t avoidable. We simply do no have sufficient equipment. With Treasure Cay only 22 miles from Marsh Harbour, it’s a seven-minute flight. It’s very expensive and very hard on the aircraft for an additional take-off and landing,” said Mr Woods said. Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe also told Tribune Business previously that the government was trying to “get Bahamasair back in” to service Treasure Cay.