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A Warm Welcome For Virgin Flight

DEPUTY Prime Minister Chester Cooper welcomes the Virgin Atlantic flight as it arrives at Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday. 
Photo: Racardo Thomas/ Tribune Staff

DEPUTY Prime Minister Chester Cooper welcomes the Virgin Atlantic flight as it arrives at Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday. Photo: Racardo Thomas/ Tribune Staff

By EARYEL BOWLEG

Tribune Staff Reporter

ebowleg@tribunemedia.net

TOURISM officials welcomed Virgin Atlantic’s passengers at Lynden Pindling International Airport yesterday in celebration of the airline’s new twice weekly service from the United Kingdom to The Bahamas.

Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu said Bahamian officials were “truly delighted” to welcome the flight with over 120 travellers from the UK.

“The atmosphere on the flight coming over was electric,” she told reporters, “filled with people excited to be making their first long haul trip since the start of the pandemic.”

Lee Haslett, Vice President of Global Sales at Virgin Atlantic, said the airline was emerging stronger from the pandemic and more committed to the Caribbean region “than ever before”.

“Our customers want experiences from their holidays,” he said. “They want to relax in resorts but they want to try something new every day and The Bahamas offers that to our customers. The Bahamas has it all in abundance and I can’t wait to see our customers arrive and explore this beautiful destination.”

Tourism, Investments and Aviation Minister Chester Cooper revealed that forward bookings for this winter season are “steady” and the “absolute priority” is to return tourist numbers to pre-COVID levels. The increased airlift brought by Virgin Atlantic will “undoubtedly help us achieve this mission,” he said.

“This inaugural flight could not have come at a more critical exciting time, as we usher in a new day for airlift even as we continue to aggressively forge ahead in our rebound and recovery efforts following the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 effects,” Minister Cooper said further.

“International travel has been significantly impacted and it is indeed a pleasure to see Virgin Atlantic join the growing number of air carriers that are restoring connection between travellers and the warm, welcoming people of our country.”

The minister added: “Statistically, the United Kingdom represents our third largest source market and we value every single visitor from your shore whose arrival contributes towards the building of our economy and therefore improving the lives of many. Visitors by air are of crucial importance. We estimate that they spend significantly more, 28 times in fact, more than cruise visitors.”

Mr Cooper highlighted that tourism numbers have been on an upward trajectory since November/December 2020, when the COVID protocols and requirements for international travellers were “stabilised”.

“Bahamas stopover tourist arrivals are now approaching 2019 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 levels.

“In September 2021, total international stopover arrivals to The Bahamas from our key source markets were only 12.1 percent below September 2019 figures,” the minister said.

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