Southern island airlift partner now 'pending'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board (BOIPB) is eyeing an airline partner to address the "terrible" connectivity undermining tourism in the southern Bahamas, its director revealed yesterday.

Kerry Fountain revealed to Tribune Business: "We do have a partner in mind and their application is pending, and if we can get that to happen, while it is not going to be the full solution it is certainly going to be a very important part of the solution in terms of developing a proper airlift strategy for the Out Islands."

Mr Fountain refused to identify the airline, adding: "I don't want to divulge that right now, but it would be a major cog to help put the whole airlift strategy in the right direction. The application for that airline to operate as a domestic air carrier in the Bahamas is pending."

He stressed that the service, if approved, would not be a "100 per cent solution", adding that it was imperative for Bahamian airlines to develop a code sharing partnership with Bahamasair.

"Our airlift strategy does not involve any one airline. It's not just them; we will need to look at how we can bring all of our domestic carriers around the table," said Mr Fountain.

"Until we fix making it more convenient and affordable to get to the islands in the south, we will continue to be challenged. Bahamasair goes to Acklins and Crooked Island on Wednesday and Saturday, but we need to figure out a way to provide daily service and use the right equipment. The 60-70 seaters are too much capacity for those islands."

Sky Bahamas chief executive, Randy Butler, suggested that all stakeholders - including the Ministry of Tourism, the Promotion Board and airlines - work together to develop a strategy for addressing the connectivity issues plaguing the southern islands.

He added that while he had had discussions on the possibility of surviving on those routes, there simply was not enough business to make a daily service viable for Sky Bahamas.

The Promotion Board recently revealed that hotels under 50 rooms in the southern Bahamas said a 5.2 per cent decline in room nights sold in 2017 compared to 2016. Hotels in the under 50 room category in the central Bahamas saw a 7.8 per cent increase, but hotels under 50 rooms in the northern Bahamas saw a 19.3 per cent increase.

The Board's January to March 2018 forecast is projecting a 6.6 per cent increase in room nights sold for properties under 50 rooms in the southern Bahamas, with hotels under 50 rooms in the central Bahamas projecting a 9.3 per cent increase in room nights sold compared to the same period in 2017. Hotels under 50 rooms in the northern Bahamas are projecting a 24.8 per cent increase in room nights sold, while hotels over 50 rooms are projecting an 8.1 per cent improvement

"Room nights sold in the case of this report have been steadily improving. Growth has not been consistent across the board, and there is still a lot of room for improvement - especially in the southern Bahamas," the Promotion Board said.