By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Nassau’s major airport gateway will see passenger volumes “a lot like” 2019 and early 2020, its chief executive, said yesterday, reflecting tourism’s projected Christmas/New Year resurgence.
Vernice Walkine, the Nassau Airport Development Company’s (NAD) chief executive, said: “I think you’ll appreciate that Thanksgiving and Christmas are traditionally busy times for us. I mean, we have a six-week period that we call the holiday period, which is typically one week before Thanksgiving right up until the week after the New Year’s holiday.
“So for that six-week period we are traditionally very busy. In fact, New Year’s Day tends to be the busiest day for air traffic throughout the entire year. So this holiday travel period, we’re projecting we will look a lot like we did in 2019 and early 2020, which is really good news for us.
“Hotels are telling us that their occupancies are approaching 2019 levels. In a couple of instances, I think they’re projecting they may actually do better than 2019. So that’s good news for the airport.”
Ms Walkine spoke as Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight from London, Heathrow, to Nassau touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) during the early afternoon yesterday.
Lee Haslet, Virgin Atlantic’s vice-president of global sales, said: “We have a very strong long-haul network through to India, Pakistan, other parts of the Middle East and Africa, and that connects nicely on to the Nassau route.
“One of the benefits of that is because we now fly to the Caribbean, and to The Bahamas, from London Heathrow. So it means that all of our passengers can connect seamlessly on to The Bahamas. So it’s a very good source market for us.”
Mr Haslet could not quantify how many passengers Virgin will bring to The Bahamas, and added: “It’s still to be seen at the moment. We’re working very hard with the tourist commissions and ourselves in those source markets; with our teams in that market, to promote the opportunity to flow through Heathrow. So still very early days, but in general the routes are doing very well for us.”
Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister, and minister for tourism, investments and aviation, said upon Virgin’s arrival: “Despite the shutdown of our tourism economy over the last 18 months, we continue to see the resilience of our tourism product.
“Our tourism numbers have been on an upward trajectory since November 2020 when the COVID protocols and requirements for international travel were stabilised. Bahamas stopover tourist arrivals are now approaching and exceeding, in fact, in some months, 2019 levels for the corresponding period.
“In fact, from some key source markets, the numbers are well beyond what we saw in 2019. In September 2021, total international stopover arrivals to the Bahamas from our key source markets were only 12.1 percent below September 2019 figures.”