A 'two-destination' travel arrangement that would see visitors to Cuba also travel to the Bahamas could be a “bit of a stretch”, the FNM's deputy leader believes.
K Peter Turnquest told Tribune Busienss that the Bahamas would likely see a net loss of business once US flights begin regular service to Havana and other Cuban destinations, a development that is now only a matter of time following last week's diplomatic developments.
And he pointed out that Mediterranean Shipping Company's (MSC), which last week signed a Heads of Agreement with the Government for the Sandy Cay cruise port, will become the first global cruise line to 'home port' in Cuba.
"MSC is actually going to be home porting one of its ships in Cuba. That is a loss for us, because that is a development we had hoped to achieve in Grand Bahama for years," Mr Turnquest said.
"Be that as it may, the idea is that that vessel will make calls to Cuba and the Bahamas. That potentially will benefit the Bahamian public treasury, but it will certainly have an effect on our developed destinations, Freeport and Nassau. The idea that we are going to be able to encourage visitors to do a two-destination, in my mind, is a bit of a stretch."
The US and Cuba have struck a deal to allow as many as 110 regular airline flights a day, permitting Americans to travel direct to Cuba rather than transit through the Bahamas and use airlines such as Bahamasair.
The agreement was reached last Wednesday night after three days of talks in Washington, opening the way for US airlines to negotiate with Cuba’s government for 20 routes a day to Havana, and 10 to each of Cuba’s other nine major airports.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe previously said the Christie administration is working with the Cuban government to develop a “multi-destination” travel arrangement with the Bahamas. Last Wednesday, Mr Christie said Mr Wilchcombe was in Cuba meeting with the relevant authorities to discuss the issue.
“We have tried this before with respect to trying to get visitors to Florida to come to The Bahamas, offering cheap flights. That has not worked and we have lost significant monies over the years," Mr Turnquest said.
"The idea that visitors are going to go to Cuba, a cheaper destination, and then come here seems in my mind a bit of a stretch. To the extent that we lose business from the direct flights from the US to Cuba, I don't see that being picked up by these so called two-destination vacations to Chinese and Europeans. I predict that there will be a net loss of business once these flights are up and running."