By YOURI KEMP and
Tribune Business Reporters
A Cabinet minister yesterday voiced optimism for a "robust" Thanksgiving and Christmas tourism season after 90,000 persons moved through Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) last week.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, speaking ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting, said: "We are expecting an extremely busy Thanksgiving period. The hotels are all reporting they are going to have a robust Thanksgiving.
"Fortunately a lot of reservations were made prior to Dorian, and the visitors have decided to maintain most of them. You would have seen that the airport is recording record numbers. I think about 90,000 persons have moved through that airport from Wednesday to Monday. So it's going to be, as usual, busy in our key destinations."
However, Bahamas Customs - while acknowledging that there had been a recent 50 percent year-over-year arrivals increase at LPIA - gave Tribune Business slightly different statistics compared to those provided by Mr D'Aguilar.
Livingston Ferguson, chief Customs revenue officer at LPIA, said the arrival figures for the dates Mr D'Aguilar was quoting last week - from Wednesday, November 20, to Monday, November 25 - were only 25,257.
He added: "If we were to include the dates from Friday, November 15, to Monday, November 25, it would be 67,411. We have been seeing a lot of traffic through the LPIA this year." Mr Ferguson said that for the same period in 2018 total arrivals were 44,920, a difference of 22,491.
Mr D'Aguilar's comments came as the US issued an updated travel advisory on The Bahamas that appeared to be virtually identical to the last one it released. This nation remains flagged as a "Level 2" country where US citizens are told to "exercise increased caution in the Bahamas due to crime".
While this is unchanged from the prior one, its release could not have been worse-timed for The Bahamas given that it coincides with the Thanksgiving weekend and the start of the peak Christmas tourism season. It has also been issued just as this nation continues to shrug-off the negative publicity and fall-out associated with Hurricane Dorian.
Mr D'Aguilar declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business other than to agree that the timing was "so sensitive" and to question why the US State Department was issuing another such advisory.
The latest missive repeats previous warnings to "exercise caution" at Arawak Cay's Fish Fry, especially at night, and for US citizens - who account for around 83 percent of this nation's tourist market - to avoid water sports and, especially, the jet ski industry. What goes unmentioned, though, is that virtually all visitors do not become victims of crime.
Meanwhile, responding to concerns over Grand Bahama's tourism product, Mr D'Aguilar said: "The Ministry has changed its messaging to try to get the word out that Grand Bahama is coming back on stream. They are trying to get the airport back on stream. All of that will contribute to not a robust Thanksgiving but a very robust Christmas."
As for the Government's possible acquisition of Grand Bahama International Airport from Hutchison Whampoa and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), the minister said no decision has yet been made.
He added: "The Grand Bahama airport is still owned by Hutchison Port. It's still operated by them and they are still responsible for it. Obviously, Hutchison has been impacted a numerous amount of times at that airport and they are not as exuberant as they once were to operate it, and the Government is looking at all options in acquiring it."
While admitting it was too early to discuss acquisition prices, Mr D'Aguilar reaffirmed earlier statements that the Government's main concern is not just acquiring the airport but how to make it safe and profitable after it does.
He said: "It will take some time to get the airport back on stream. You have to analyse why it keeps flooding and how to make it more resilient, and that will take more time to think through it.
"Hutchison Ports are certainly bringing a terminal back on stream. We expect hopefully by this week that it will be in a position to open. The airlines will be able to get back in and it can resume international flights. We have been reliably advised that hopefully some time this week it will happen."
John 3 years, 6 months ago
The latest missive repeats previous
StrongIt is patently obvious that America will continue to discriminate against Bahamians with it’s travel advisories that specifically target areas and operations done by Bahamians. This is despite little or no incidents of crime or violence occurring in these areas against visitors and millions of them return home safe and happy after an enjoyable stay in this country. No use ranting and raving against the dragon that can spit fire when she pleases and at whom she pleases. Instead use the efforts to ensure that all visitors are kept safe and continue to have a most enjoyable and incident free experience when they visit The Bahamas. Teach and train the people working in the industry, that it is their responsibility to keep their guests:customers safe and despite the invitation, temptation or opportunity, they are not allowed to fraternize with their customers, especially ones who may have been drinking. Even though many come looking for that special experience, do not mix business with pleasure. It is no longer ‘that kind of party.’Strong
BMW 3 years, 6 months ago
I read this article and shake my head at the B.S. being spoken. Grand Bahama will flood anytime a hurricane passes the island to the north. The north side of Grand Bahama from East to West is shallow bank, no more than 20ft deep all the way to Walkers Cay. Hurricane circulate in counterclockwise rotation which pushes the water from the shallow banks into the land. Our flooding was made much worse when Dorian stalled over Grand Bahama. So to be point blank on why the airport keeps flooding #1 The airport is extremely close to the very shallow north shore, #2. see first part of this post. Now to make it more resilient you will have to raise the foundation another ten or twelve feet. In reality one only needs to drive through the Gulf coast and see how they build. Most everything is built on piles at ten to twenty feet above ground level.
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