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Private aviation generating over 465,000 room nights

Tourism officials looking at lowering fees and increasing awareness to boost numbers
Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Oct 28, 2013

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Attracting more business into The Bahamas via private airplanes is a goal for tourism officials, as they presently generate more than 465,000 room nights annually.

Greg Rolle, chief aviation specialist and pilot at the Ministry of Tourism, confirmed to Guardian Business that he believes the sector has the capacity to generate an even bigger chunk of business.

Rolle pointed out that the goal of his department is to educate as many professionals in the aviation industry, particularly those in the Florida market, about the benefits of flying to The Bahamas.

“It’s all about educating the flying public, having a better understanding of who the traveling consumer is, the more comfortable they will be to spend on amenities. So what we have found out is that if a pilot wants to go to The Bahamas and let’s say they are flying through Ft. Lauderdale, they will be able to tell them all the details of how to fly to The Bahamas. We also educated them about the destination itself,” he said.

The chief aviation specialist further noted to Guardian Business that they have partnered with smaller airports, known as fixed-based operators (FBO), to encourage business through the aviation sector

“An example of this would be Odyssey in Nassau. Most of the private aircrafts funnel through FBOs to get their fuel, information, weather and flight plan. We found out that a lot of these pilots would go to the front desk, customer service professionals and ask them for information,” Rolle noted.

“Bearing that in mind, we started to educate customer service individuals so when the pilot walks to the front desk and asks for information about flying to The Bahamas, they will be in a better position to tell them how it’s done, so that’s our main focus.”

While numbers have been promising over the years and most of the business is coming from Florida, places like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, he revealed that many pilots are still very concerned with the hefty additional costs that are associated with flying their aircrafts to The Bahamas. It’s an issue Rolle said his team is looking to address.

Rolle continued: “We have a lot of pilots who will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their aircraft but there are various fees like landing fees, overnight fees, packing fees and even the departure tax they complain about which has gone from $15 to $25. They believe we need to minimize these additional charges as much as possible. These are some of the things that drive pilots away. Prices in Grand Bahama are even higher.”

Tourism officials have planned a familiarization trip for a group of aviation professionals that could benefit from flying to The Bahamas. The delegation will travel to Ft. Lauderdale; Grand Bahama; Great Harbour Cay; Berry Islands; Georgetown, Exuma and San Salvador from August 16 to 19.

“Trips like these allow aviation professionals to see the product so that they are able to speak with conviction once they go back because they have experienced it,” Rolle added.

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