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Aviation Conference Targets Airlift Boost

Tourism and aviation officials from 28 countries attended yesterday's opening of the third annual Caribbean Aviation Meetup conference at Atlantis.

Hailed as the region's largest aviation conference, the conclave, which is being hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (BMOTA), will run until Thursday as attendees bid to increase airlift into the Caribbean.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, said: "I think that it is a wonderful opportunity to bring experts in the field of aviation to talk to all our different governmental groups.

"I'm very encouraged because it was a great turnout, and I think a lot can be learned from this conference because it is the way that visitors who spend the most get here. The airlift customer to The Bahamas spends 20 times' more, and so this is the component of our tourism product that we want to encourage."

Captain Charles Beneby, the Civil Aviation Authority's director-general, added: "This conference is important because it brings all the stakeholders together with a common vision. The Caribbean is one of the fastest growing areas of the aviation sector. That growth has to be done in an orderly fashion so that it is sustainable.

"We are hoping that the airlines can see the Bahamas as a place where they can do business in a profitable manner and, for us, it allows us to showcase our capabilities in the country. And, as we try to reach out to our partners in the region, we can attempt to have harmonisation for the visitor experience."

Commander Bud Slabbaert, chairman and co-ordinator of the Caribbean Aviation Meetup, said: "This is an excellent location because we are close to the United States and close to Florida, and we have a lot of American companies that want to reach out to the Caribbean region. The Bahamas is a great place to do that.

"This is a communication platform, and it is result and solution-oriented. This is what we want - a platform where everyone learns something from it."

Countries participating in the conference include Anguilla, Antigua, The Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Commonwealth of Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Nevis, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Saba, St Barts, St Eustatius, St Lucia, St Maarten/St Martin, St Vincent, Suriname, Switzerland, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos, United Kingdom, United States, and US Virgin Islands.

There are 40 presenters scheduled to address the event, including The Bahamas' director-general of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, and Bahamasair managing director, Tracey Cooper.

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