By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a feasibility study for upgrades to Long Island's main airport, a senior official said yesterday.
Maria Florencia Attademo-Hirt, the bank's Bahamas country representative, told Tribune Business: "We are moving forward with that, and we have provided grant resources for that. After that study is complete we will present the study to Government and they will decide what to do next. We are aware that there have been several studies in the past. Part of our engagement is to look at everything; not to duplicate anything, and try to conclude."
Earlier this year, the IDB announced it had approved a $35 million loan designed to improve infrastructure at four airports on the Family Islands. It said the loan would contribute to the archipelago's regional and international integration through upgrades at the Exuma, North Eleuthera, Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay airports.
"That project was approved in January 2017 by the IDB Board. It is pending Parliamentary ratification and signing of the loan agreement to start execution, but that is the programme where certain Family Island airports were selected for upgrades.
Originally there was no conversation about Long Island, but in the past maybe month-and-a-half we were asked look at the Deadman's Cay airport and conduct a feasibility study for improvements," said Mrs Attademo-Hirt.
The Government has responsibility for 29 airports across the Bahamas and has embarked on finding public-private partnerships (PPPs) for potential financing opportunities.
The redevelopment of Family Island airports will be done in phases, with consultancy group, Stantec, reporting that a total $185 million investment was needed to revamp all.
Adrian Gibson, Long Island's MP, while addressing the Long Island Business Outlook conference yesterday, said an international port of entry (by air) was one of the island's three most pressing capital works needs.
"We have physically canvassed the island and used various websites. In so doing, we have discovered that there are over 60 vacation rentals on the island, two major resorts and other smaller resorts and villas," he said.
"Research shows that - not counting the plethora of empty apartments - there are approximately 200 bedrooms available that can accommodate nearly 440 people every night. It is estimated that the total gross revenue to the island from room rentals and ancillary activities, based on a 50 per cent occupancy estimate, could be more than $17 million annually."
Mr Gibson added: "Notably, the Ministry of Tourism's numbers do not accurately reflect the number of tourists coming to Long Island. Many more do, however, en route to Long Island. Many of them clear Customs and Immigration in New Providence and Exuma, and those are counted to their numbers.
"I suggest that the Department of Immigration should add a "final destination" section to its Immigration forms. Given the above, these tourists are not added to Long Island's final numbers."