By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
An Exuma resort yesterday voiced optimism that 30 percent of its pre-COVID business will return in time for Christmas due to Air Canada resuming flights to the island.
Dwight Hart, general manager of the Exuma Palms at Three Sisters Resort, told Tribune Business that the resumption of flights from the Canadian market for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic struck represents a major boost for the island’s tourism industry.
He said: “Obviously we are very excited that they’re resuming because they’ve been gone for well over a year. So everybody is excited to see the flights come in from Canada because quite a bit of winter tourists emanate out of Canada.
“I just spoke to a few taxi drivers and they are all excited. I would say about 30 percent of my bookings come from Canada, particularly through the AirBnb portal.”
Pedro Rolle, president of the Exuma Chamber of Commerce, said: “Air Canada coming back is more of an indication that things are getting better. I think it gauges the pulse of where we are relative to where we were. So, it’s a good gauge.”
Air Canada said flights to Exuma would resume on December 19. “As the demand for leisure travel continues to grow, we’re ready to advance the recovery of our industry by meeting the needs of travelers from all walks of life,” said Nino Montagnese, vice-president of Air Canada Vacations.
Mr Rolle added: “It’s a positive sign all the way around that we have the Canadian market that’s coming back to Exuma. It is a significant market for us.
“Our Canadian visitors and Canadian investors over the recent past have been significant, if even not in terms of absolute numbers, but in terms of the quality of the investment that they bring. So it’s a quality market even though they are less than the US market.”
Natajia Miller, Embrace Resort’s general manager, added: “This means nothing for us because we’re on Staniel Cay and we don’t benefit that much from tourists flying into Great Exuma. But we are happy for our mainland family that they can have some more guests. “
Cédric Pantanella, general manager of Paradise Bay Bahamas, said: “This is good news. More business.”