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Minister hails 'feather in cap' of Chinese air deal

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister yesterday hailed the signing of an air services agreement with China as an "additional feather in the cap" for The Bahamas and its tourism product.

Dionisio D'Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, confirmed to Tribune Business that the two countries had laid "the foundation and groundwork" for direct flights between them through their bilateral deal signed last Thursday.

While conceding that such direct service may still be some way off, Mr D'Aguilar said the agreement will smooth the process for when it actually happens. He added that it also "plays into" the significant Chinese ownership in the resort industry at Baha Mar and the British Colonial Hilton/The Pointe, which are controlled by Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) and China Construction America (CCA), respectively.

"We did indeed sign a bilateral air services agreement with China," the minister said, when contacted by this newspaper. "This obviously governs the rules under which Chinese-flagged airlines fly to The Bahamas and Bahamian-flagged aircraft fly to China.

"Obviously we're much more interested in them flying to us than us flying to them. This is an additional feather in the cap. The agreement with China was under negotiation for many, many years. This is an additional feature that will help to attract Chinese visitors to our country.

"Were Chinese airline companies wishing to fly to The Bahamas this facilitates the whole process. It would be very simple and straightforward. If Chinese airline companies were to show up the rules under which they fly to The Bahamas have been negotiated already."

Mr D'Aguilar said The Bahamas had already eliminated the need for Chinese visitors to obtain visas to come here if they were travelling through the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union (EU).

The Bahamas to-date has sought to target the Chinese market by encouraging those travellers to the US and Canada to extend their stays and fly to The Bahamas for several days. While the distance between the two countries likely acts as a potential barrier to direct flights, Mr D'Aguilar said this nation could not afford to ignore the wealth and scale of the outbound visitor market.

Predicting that direct flights will eventually come, he told Tribune Business: "The Chinese tourist market is probably the fastest growing tourist market in the world at 1.4 billion. Obviously The Bahamas is quite distance from China... but when the time comes around to make the long trek all the foundations and groundwork to accommodate that are now in place.

"China is growing in wealth every day, becoming an economic power, and as the wealth of its citizenry increases their desire to travel also increases. Obviously we are nestled next to the wealthiest country in the hemisphere, the US, but it behooves us as China begins to grow in wealth and people travel more for us to be positioned to take advantage of that when it arrives."

Mr D'Aguilar said The Bahamas had long pursued a policy of signing as many bilateral air services agreements as it possibly can, and estimated that they now number around 60-70.

He revealed that The Bahamas also signed an air services agreement with Saudi Arabia during last week's International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) general assembly that was held in Canada.

"It also provided us with an opportunity to meet with other nations and explain the plight we've gone through with Hurricane Dorian, and seek assistance - whether technical or monetary - to help us enhance and grow our aviation sector," Mr D'Aguilar said of ICAO. "It was very much a worthwhile venture."

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 4 months ago

Did our government, as a matter of courtesy, allow appropriate agencies within the U.S. government to review and comment on the final draft of the air services agreement before executing it?

Red China is well known for using these types of agreements to obtain pre-approved access to another country's airspace for its military aircraft (air force) under the guise of cargo aircraft. Such access to our airspace by Red China for military purposes of any kind could pose serious problems for the national security interests of the U.S. given our geographic proximity.

Did Minnis and D'Aguilar go off the deep end here? After all, neither of them stands out in the proverbial box of crayons.

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buddah17 3 years, 4 months ago

This is a blog that I have differences with... We are a tourism nation and need people from ALL over the world. Yes The U.S. IS the closest to us, and we get more of them here for vacation/business than any othe major country. HOWEVER, that should NOT stop us from trying to encourage ALL Nations (especially the bigger ones that are FURTHER away so they come for a longer period of time..) We are a peace loving SMALL island nation without ANY form of Military to fight ANY other Nation wanting to disagree with us. SO I say, YES go for it, get ALL of The Chinese, Russians, Turkish, Spanish, Spanish, etc... etc... etc... that want to come to a small beautiful island to relax and take a break. As far as the U.S. "reviewing" our plans to expand tourism, I say sure they can look at our agreements AFTER we have made them up with the other countries that we are dealing with. HOWEVER, we cannot allow them just to have free reign (or dictate) WHO or WHERE we devise our tourist product from. SUPPOSE they say NO to China, NO to Venezeula, NOT to Cuba, NOT to France etc...etc.. And say "just work with the U.S. tourism product and be happy!" No no no.... We are as Democratic a Nation as anywhere else, and MUST have the freedom to work our tourism product in a manner that is best for us...

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 4 months ago

Red China is well known for using these types of agreements to obtain pre-approved access to another country's airspace for its military aircraft (air force) under the guise of cargo aircraft.

What part of the above sentence did you not understand? Or perhaps you understood its implications, but conveniently chose to ignore them.

Also, if you accept that we are not an isolationist nation, and that the U.S. is logically our closest and most important ally for a number of very good reasons, then it naturally stands to reason that our government should have let appropriate agencies of the U.S. government have sight of the final draft of the air services agreement with Red China before executing it. That's the prudent and neighbourly thing to have done given the importance of our relationship with the U.S. Whether you like it or not the U.S. will always be our most important ally, with them rightfully being the whale and us the minnow.

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TheMadHatter 3 years, 4 months ago

I can't believe I'm actually reading this. Are they serious? Communist China? Can we think of something even foolerer that we can do? Im afraid to open this website, cause I don't know what i might find next. Holy Smokes.

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Porcupine 3 years, 4 months ago

Had The Bahamas, in the last ten years alone, worked to improve the tourism product we sell, ie. the level of service of our tourism sector, the physical products themselves, the cost of these tourism services, the safety of our tourists, and on and on, we would need to be focused on what is called over-tourism. Too much tourism. There are a billion people within easy and affordable traveling distance to this country which would afford us a sustainable and secure tourism market and base. The failure of tourism to completely satisfy our needs, all of our needs in all out islands as well is only for a lack of imagination, vision and support. Even if it was the US alone that we concentrated on, had we diversified our tourism product, worked feverishly to ensure that our tourism product was truly innovative and world class we wouldn't be having this conversation. We have not performed to the level necessary for us to secure a stronger share of the market. It is not like there are not surveys showing us exactly where we are falling short and where we are strong. I have taken the Bahamas Host course myself, and can assure you that we have lagged behind in using the tourism sector to our utmost advantage. Again, it comes back to education. If our people do not have the education and intellectual tools to succeed, how can we possibly have the wisdom to elect leaders with vision? We don't. Therefore, we end up with leaders who are out for themselves and find little to nothing to line their pockets if they actually promote and work for the Bahamian people whom they were elected by. It favors the politicians to take bribes from the foreign players who have built into their budget the money needed to "get things done" in The Bahamas. Over and over we continue to promote these mega projects which do little for the average Bahamian. We remain short-sighted. Our leaders remain so because we allow the dinosaurs to stay in office. And, ask any tipped tourism employee about US vs. Chinese tourists. We would be better focused on improving our product and staying closer to home.

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