By NATARIO McKENZIE
EXUMA’S airlift is up 17 per cent year-over-year, although air arrivals to Nassau/Paradise Island have only shown a slight increase year-to-date.
However, tourism officials maintain that added hotel room inventory in 2015, with the opening of Baha Mar, will generate more “traction” and an increase in traffic.
Tyrone Sawyer, the Ministry of Tourism’s senior director of airlift development, told Tribune Business: “We have got a scenario where Grand Bahama is seeing quite a bit of airlift from Canada in the winter, some of which will go year around.
“They have added an additional two cities, so there are eight cities in Canada to Grand Bahama with Sunwing Airlines. Earlier this year, Bahamasair operated those flights from the US cities.
“The Government has a partnership with Blue Diamond, and Sunwing will be putting on its own airlines and operate flights from US cities next spring and summer. We have seen the business year-over-year comparison increase by 39 per cent into Grand Bahama.”
Mr Sawyer added: “When you look at Exuma, American Airlines has daily service.
We have Bahamasair with service through Nassau, we have twice weekly service from Toronto into George Town, and we have twice weekly on Delta from Atlanta.
“That is bringing the Exuma traffic up about 17 per cent year-over-year. That is affected to some degree by having Sandals as a partner, because they do a tremendous job of promoting both Nassau and Exuma.”
Mr Sawyer said Nassau Paradise/Island was seeing a slight increase in air arrivals, driven by hotel room capacity.
“We are seeing a level to slight increase in airlift, but the airlift is driven by the amount of growth in hotel room capacity, so when Baha Mar comes online in May 2015, the 2,200 incremental rooms to the Nassau/Paradise Island room inventory, that is when we are going to start to see traction and increase in the traffic to Nassau and Paradise Island,” Mr Sawyer explained.