By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Government is estimating that a $185 million investment is necessary for a “complete overhaul” of all the Bahamas’ 28 airports, with only six identified as key ‘port of entry’ gateways that can be economically sustainable.
Glenys Hanna Martin, minister of transport and aviation, told the Exuma Business Outlook conference yesterday that the Moss Town Airport was among the six placed in ‘Tier one’, with North Eleuthera, San Salvador, Marsh Harbour and Bimini also included in that group.
Mrs Hanna Martin said the Government, with the assistance of consultants from Stantec, will over the next several weeks create a masterplan for the redevelopment of all Tier one airports.
“Tourism figures indicate that air stopover arrivals to Exuma in 2012 were 36,666, while the numbers last year increased to 38,968,” Mrs Hanna-Martin said.
“Between January to May of this year, some 22,273 visitors travelled by air to Exuma, while 19,083 accounted for the same period last year. The numbers clearly indicate growth in stopover air arrivals to Exuma.
“These visitors and our own citizens, however, are transiting through a terminal which has outgrown its capacity to adequately accommodate passengers, especially during peak hours,” she added.
“The terminal is physically deteriorating, it lacks efficiency, and thereby undermines the economic viability of this island, including the negative first impression that one may garner.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said that over the past 24 months, the Ministry of Transport & Aviation has been working towards a complete overhaul of all 28 airports throughout the Bahamas.
“This has involved a number of initiatives, including a comprehensive audit of our entire aviation network. The audit was completed only recently and carried out by an international consulting firm, providing a technical assessment of the air and land side of all 28 airports,” she said.
“It was estimated that last year some 1.055 million persons traversed Family Island airports, of which 63 per cent were domestic passengers, and that within the next two decades passenger demand is projected to increase annually by 2.4 per cent to reach 1.7 million by 2033.”
Mrs Hanna Martin said: “The Stantec report, as it is called, recommended that airports be classed into three categories - those in tier one, tier two and tier three.
“The Moss Town international airport has been categorised as a tier one gateway, described as a significant port of entry gateway for the Family Islands, which has economic opportunity to be operationally sustainable.”
Mrs Hanna Martin added that work will be undertaken simultaneously on airports listed in tiers two and three. She said the Moss Town airport has been listed as a high priority for the Government, with plans to create a world-class facility there.
Mrs Hanna Martin said the airport would include a concessions programme for shops and car rental businesses to provide employment opportunities for Exumians.
She added that the Government was poised to engage an Exumian with aviation experience to takeover the management of the Moss Town airport.