Categorized | National News

GB Tourism Up 14%- Increased Airlift On The Way For GB

Grand Bahama saw a 14 per cent increase in tourist arrivals and nationally those figures spiked eight per cent, according to Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe.

Minister Wilchcombe, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Grand Bahama and Bimini, made the announcement at a news conference at the Reef Village in Grand Bahama yesterday.

During that news conference, the prime minister announced plans for the revitalisation of Grand Bahama’s economy. The Christie administration signed letters of intent and memoranda of understanding with Hutchison Port Holdings Limited and Sunwing Travel Group.

Mr. Wilchcombe did not provide details on the figures.

“The tourism numbers in Grand Bahama took a nosedive like nowhere else. When we left office in 2007 we left overnight visitor arrivals at 587,000. Last year, we saw it plummet to 180,000 less – a significant drop of 69 per cent. I’m happy to report that tourism is now on the increase,” he said.

“We’ve seen an increase in Grand Bahama of 14 per cent; nationally, it’s up eight per cent and we will certainly exceed five million tourists again this year.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie’s announcement yesterday means that more than 1,000 jobs will be created as a result of the partnership.

Hutchinson Whampoa will renovate and reopen its 503-room Reef Village, which will be leased and operated as a five-star, all-inclusive resort by Blue Diamond Hotels and Resorts.

Additionally, Sunwing, which owns and operates a fleet of 737-800 aircraft, will operate flights from several cities in Canada to Freeport.

“It is a new day in Grand Bahama, a day that makes me very proud as a Grand Bahamian, because over the years I’ve witnessed so many families broken, so many families who’ve had to pack up and leave, so many losing homes, losing all that they have fought for due to unemployment,” Minister Wilchcombe said.

“In addition to that, we were faced with losing inventory. Here in Grand Bahama after the hurricanes we lost 800 hotel rooms, subsequent to that, the Lighthouse; we lost 1,000 hotel rooms and then The Reef then other hotels shut their doors and so our inventory had dropped significantly.”

He continued, “That is why when the Progressive Liberal Party became the government five months ago it was the leader of our country who said my focus and my priority is Grand Bahama. He said he wanted to revise our tourism industry – that he wanted to work on it diligently and he wanted nothing spared to cause things to happen.”

Increased Airlift

Minister Wilchcombe said Grand Bahamians will begin to see new airlift coming from the Canadian market, particularly during the winter months.

The airlift will come as a result of the government’s partnership with Sunwing Travel Group – one of the largest travel conglomerates in Canada.

“But, in addition to that, we are also at present in negotiations – and with expectations of imminent start-up – of new airlift provided by Spirit, Delta, Go United, American and also our own national airlines,” he said.

“We’re working diligently to get more airlift to Grand Bahama. In addition to that, we’re in talks now with the Latin American market with a Latin American group that will begin business to Grand Bahama before the end of this year.”

Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin also attended the news conference.

“The last couple of years have been extremely difficult for all of us in this country and particularly difficult for those of us in Grand Bahama and so this [announcement], which we heard today provides such a wonderful hope of relief for our people,” she said.

“I just want to say that now that the light is coming through the window for us we need to put our shoulders to the wheel as one people to make this a success so that we can begin to reposition ourselves as a nation and begin to establish for ourselves a quality of life that was anticipated by those who came before us.”

Mr. Wilchcombe said the Ministry of Tourism has decided that Grand Bahama will become its digital platform location and that its call centre will be located on the island and conduct most of its business out of Grand Bahama.

“So, the Ministry Of Tourism is making a paradigm shift because we’re of the view that Grand Bahama can become an IT centre for the entire Caribbean,” he said.

The majority of the Cabinet attended yesterday’s news conference, including Grand Bahama Minister Dr. Michael Darville. Several stakeholders from the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) also attended.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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