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Bahamas lost competitive advantage by being expensive to get to, says tourism expert

  • According to a tourism expert, The Bahamas has the largest potential for tourism development in the region, but the archipelago has damaged its brand with high taxes and fees. FILE

Senior Business Reporter

Published: Jul 18, 2017

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A flight to Miami from New York next week is currently half the price of a New York to Nassau flight, but the average distance disparity between both flights is only seven miles. A tourism expert told Guardian Business yesterday that this country has “eroded its most significant advantage” — its proximity to the United States — by being one of the most expensive destinations in the region to get to.

The expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his job, told this paper that The Bahamas has the largest potential for tourism development in the region, but lamented that the archipelago has damaged its brand with high taxes and fees.

Guardian Business checked a fare comparison website and found that a flight from New York to Miami could be purchased next week for $249 through United Airlines and $287 through American Airlines, whereas for the same time period from New York to Nassau, airline charges were $468 through American Airlines and $485 on United Airlines.

“The biggest problem we've had for the longest time is we refuse to understand what our competitive advantage is in the Caribbean,” the expert said.

“The U.S. is the biggest economy in the world, which technically allows us to charge a lot more money for our products, compared to people elsewhere, because people look at these vacations in terms of what the total cost is, not just simply what the room rate is or the all-inclusive rate. Because of our location we should have absolutely the lowest cost to get from the United States to The Bahamas.

“We love to talk about room rates and we don’t remember that people are talking about total vacation cost, and the total cost includes the cost to get to the destination, and if you look at the total cost to get to The Bahamas, compared to the total cost to get to our competitors, something has long gone wrong.”

The expert said The Bahamas should be concerned about Cuba opening up to visitors from the United States. The country has already logged a huge uptick in tourist arrivals since the beginning of the year.

A price check showed that the disparity between a flight from Toronto to Cuba and Toronto to Nassau was only $26. However, the distance disparity between the two destinations was more than 400 miles.

“We have to restore the advantage we have,” the expert said.

“Without question we should be worried about Cuba. Anybody who tells you when Cuba opened up that it had no effect, they are absolutely crazy.”

Statistics have shown that The Bahamas’ tourism product has not grown in 20 years and has been “stagnant because the value for money has eroded”.

Currently it is only $30 cheaper to fly to Freeport, Grand Bahama from Ft. Lauderdale than it is to fly from Ft. Lauderdale to Las Vegas, a distance disparity of 2,085 miles. Freeport is only 96 miles from Ft. Lauderdale.

The tourism expert explained that Nassau is one of the biggest cruise destinations in the world, but has not significantly increased its stopover visitors in years, compared to other destinations in the region.

“The big problem is transportation,” the expert said. “If you can't fix that, you can't grow your tourism.”



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