NASSAU, The Bahamas – The Ministry of Tourism is proposing to spend an estimated $26.6 million on marketing and promotions of the islands of The Bahamas, and a further estimated $4.1 million on airlift development.
The Hon. Neko Grant, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, said on Monday (June 11, 2007) in the House of Assembly during debate on the $1.5 billion Budget that the ministry has an “aggressive” program for tourism development.
“As we move forward with an aggressive program for tourism and economic expansion in the islands of The Bahamas, including new investments over the next several years,” said the Minister, “the industry will require a matching increase in the quality and capacity of our scheduled airlift in New Providence and Paradise Island, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
“Our strategies then will be focused on ensuring that airlift capacity keeps pace with our growing resort inventory.”
He said the ministry will seek to rise to the challenge of continuing to secure incremental capacity at competitive fare offerings, against the increased challenge of destinations like Turks and Caicos Islands, Bermuda, and Cayman Islands which have been able to offer lower turn around costs and attractive customer friendly facilities which supplement the resort brands of those islands.
Minister Grant emphasized that to date, the level of air seat capacity does not meet the threshold needed to fill every hotel room in The Bahamas, and the 2007-2008 allocation reflects planned efforts to sustain and grow airlift quality and capacity as required in New Providence, GBI and the Family Islands, which will be underpinned by initiatives including:
• Jet Blue’s northeast corridor to Nassau;
• Gulfstream’s Continental Connection services expansion to the Family Islands.
• Air Tran’s daily Atlanta hub to Grand Bahama Island.
• US Airways’ Charlotte hub and Saturday services to LaGuardia and Philadelphia.
“I take this opportunity to note Delta Airline’s June 16, 2007 inaugural flights of non-stop regional jet service from Atlanta to George Town, Exuma and non-stop regional jet service from Atlanta to North Eleuthera.
“Just this year, Delta Airlines received our industry’s highest recognition as Cacique Award winners of ‘Airline of the Year’ for 2006.
“These inaugurals are yet another indication of the strength of our stakeholder partnership. And there are other critical negotiations with other airlines that are ongoing, and have great potential for our country’s tourism industry.
“With the help or our industry partners, we have secured in principle, agreements from key airlines which will position us to meet the increased air seat capacity needed to fill the new rooms which will come on-line throughout The Bahamas in the coming years.”
The Minister noted that in the upcoming fiscal year, his ministry will welcome new non-stop service while opening up one-stop same day connections from numerous cities.
“These initiatives are being accomplished while we continue to maintain a healthy balance between in-bound air seat capacity and existing hotel room capacity.
“Marketing and promotion as I mentioned remain a core function of our business.”
Mr Grant said his ministry will spend an estimated $26.6 million on marketing and promotions of the islands of The Bahamas.
With regards to USA marketing and promotions, he emphasized that there will be three primary objectives, namely:
• To reverse the softness in the marketplace;
• To mitigate anticipated potential losses of family business this summer due to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (the passport issue);
• To implement a strong promotional campaign for the coming fall season.
“The competitive environment is unprecedented and we will never be able to outspend the competition,” he said.
“To meet these principal objectives, our spending then must reflect unprecedented levels of innovation and creativity and must be strategically placed across all media.
“It is important to note that now more than ever, the Internet, with its pervasive usage by our intended target audiences, requires exciting, breakthrough advertising banners on the popular sites trafficked by our target customers, in order to push them to our Bahamas.com website.”
He stressed the need to tap into the African-American market.
“Our research tells us that the African-American consumer is constantly seeking destinations with strong cultural and heritage experiences,” he said, “and we must note that a great deal of our own heritage is shared with this group, leading the African-American market to identify more strongly with our region.
“The African-American is increasingly more affluent. We have therefore singled out this market as a target group for travel to The Bahamas.”
The Minister also said efforts will be made to woo Canadian tourists.
“Our overall strategy is to reinforce the recent introduction of the islands of The Bahamas to the Canadian marketplace as a multi-island destination with multiple vacation experiences all rolled into one.
“The emphasis of my ministry will be on the development of the growing markets in Western and Eastern Canada,” he said.
“In particular, efforts will be designed to take specific advantage of the strong economic growth in areas such as Calgary and Vancouver, including the planned introduction of new Wesjet airlift services.
“These new services will include non-stop jet service from Calgary to Nassau, starting this November, and non-stop jet service from Halifax to Nassau, which will begin in February of next year.”