By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Abaco and North Eleuthera resorts said yesterday they were “booked out” due to a surge in business over the Christmas holiday weekend, with one operator telling this newspaper: “I wish it could be like this all year.”
Dean Spychalla, vice-president and managing director of Valentines Residences Resort and Marina on Harbour Island, told Tribune Business: “Yes, we have had a good Christmas weekend.
“We have had a great fall season at Valentines, particularly since November 1, the beginning of our fiscal year. Business has been up significantly.”
Mr Spychalla, who is also president of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board, added: “The weather has affected our marina business somewhat this fall and it is now beginning to recover.
“The rooms as well as food and beverage business have been outstanding. There is a lot of activity on the island. The outlook is really good for us and we are off to a good start.”
Delta Airlines recently launched services between Atlanta and Eleuthera and Marsh Harbour, Abaco. The airline offers each flight twice a week, with the Atlanta/Eleuthera flights operating on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the Atlanta/Marsh Harbour flights operating on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“The load factors on Delta coming from Atlanta have been very good. We are excited about having Atlanta as a gateway directly to Eleuthera. We would like to explore additional airlift where possible in the Out Islands,” said Mr Spychalla.
Joe Dargavage, Romora Bay Resort & Marina’s general manager, told Tribune Business: “It’s an amazing way to close out the 2015 tourism year. It’s also a sign that 2016 is going to be a better year, not only for the Out Islands but the Bahamas in general; 2016 is shaping up to be a banner year.”
Mr Dargavage said business for Romora Bay,at both the resort and marina over the last quarter, has been “up 30 per cent” over the previous year.
“This past week we were sold out and our projections for the fiscal year 2016 in both the yachting and hotel side are to be up about 20-25 per cent. Finally, for the first time we are getting close to 2004-2005 numbers,” said Mr Dargavage.
He added that relatively low fuel prices have helped to keep airfare costs down. “Also, for people like us in the yachting industry, we are seeing an increase in yachting. The yachting industry is taking off in the Out Islands,” Mr Dargavage said.
“It’s the hard work of our first impression team at the North Eleuthera airport, starting with the airport manager, Danielle Gibson, that really makes a difference. This is to include Customs, Immigration, police, gate agents, and ramp team.”
Molly McIntosh, assistant general manager with responsibility for sales at Abaco’s Green Turtle Club, told Tribune Business: “We are slammed. Rooms full, rental homes very busy, all golf carts and rental boats sold out for the next few days. Fishing guides are booked out and the dive centre sold out. Restaurants are full and everyone is happy. I wish it could be like this all year.”
She added: “It has been a good holiday season. We slow down around the 4th, but at the same time a $250 rebate is being rolled out for guests booking air and hotel to come to any Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board property and stay four nights or longer, and I think that will bring in a lot of reservations for the coming season.”
Glenys Hanna‑Martin, minister of transport and aviation, issued a press release on Sunday warning for travellers to anticipate unavoidable delays, and to exercise patience and understanding, due to the heavy volume of traffic at the North Eleuthera and Abaco airports.
December 26 marked the second record breaking day in 2015 for visitor arrivals at the North Eleuthera airport, with 477 foreign visitors and 93 planes landing in one day. Those statistics did not not include Bahamian residents travelling into the airport or permanent residents returning to the Bahamas, nor foreign visitors arriving on domestic flights.