Transport costs, shortages create tourism ‘headwinds’


Kerry Fountain


Tribune Business Editor


Shortages of employee housing and certified fly fishing guides, and high ground transportation costs, were yesterday cited as some of the major “headwinds” impeding Family Island stopover tourism growth.

Kerry Fountain, the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board’s (BOIPB) executive director, told Tribune Business that while same-day airlift connectivity from and to Nassau remains “the lowest hanging fruit” there are multiple other common challenges that must be addressed for these destinations to fully thrive.

“What we’re also noticing for islands like Abaco, and we’re definitely seeing due to the popularity of second home rentals, is a shortage of staff housing,” he explained. “The problem that then creates, if you cannot find the staff because you don’t have any affordable housing - and it’s not just Abaco, but Abaco comes to mind because of Dorian’s housing shortage - is that it creates service issues.

“That’s not in terms of rudeness, but in terms of slowness. You have too many visitors with too few staff members. That’s going to create slow service complaints, which is already among our top six complaints for all the Family Islands.” And that is not the only area where some Family Islands are running short.

“One of the things brought to my attention by a third-party foreign fishing tour operator is that the demand for fly fishing in The Bahamas has grown astronomically,” Mr Fountain added. “The problem is we don’t have enough certified fly fishing guides.

“I know the Ministry of Tourism and BAMSI (the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Science Institute) have certified training programmes ongoing in Andros, but that’s not happening fast enough and the certified programmes need to be expanded beyond Andros. 

“And, last but not least, and something that we definitely have to address with the project to transform 14 Family Island airports, is the cost of ground transportation. I was talking to one of our members in Long Island, and to travel from Stella Maris to Deadman’s Cay it’s $160 one-way for two people,” he continued.

“From Marsh Harbour to the Green Turtle ferry dock it’s $100 one way for two people in terms of transportation. We somehow have to address that. Even if we cannot lower the cost we have to have visible signage at the airport or on Bahamas.com with these prices so people are not surprised by the cost.

“Another issue I am hearing from the members on Bimini is the harassment of their guests upon arrival by some - not all, only some - of the taxi cab drivers trying to get business. That, on Bimini, has to be addressed. These are some of the headwinds based on the feedback from members that I am hearing.”

Mr Fountain also warned that more work is required to solve the same-day connection challenges for persons transiting Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) as they either head on to their Family Island destination or return from that location to head home.

“As always for us, airlift out of LPIA is a challenge,” he told Tribune Business. “It’s not a matter of the number of seats flying from different Family Islands to LPIA. We need to tweak the timing of flights when we have flights coming into Nassau bringing passengers connecting to the Family Islands. We need to work with our airline partners in The Bahamas to allow same-day connectivity. That’s the lowest hanging fruit right there.”

Voicing confidence that Promotion Board members will hit their 2023 financial targets (see other article on Page 1B), Mr Fountain said: “We have to have everybody working in sync. It has to involve the Ministry of Tourism doing the heavy lifting internationally and promotion on a consistent basis, not off and on.

“It has to involve the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board having the right offers in the market on behalf of the members and marketing different offers to guests at the right time of the year in the right market, and it has to involve our hotel members doing what they need to do and making sure every time somebody visits their hotel they obtain an e-mail address to target potential repeat guests.”


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.