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Analysis: How will Baha Mar impact airlift?

What does 2200 new rooms in the New Providence tourism market mean in terms of additional airlift into the island?

That has been one of the central questions circulating around the massive Baha Mar development.Guardian Businessasked a few industry experts how an estimation may be made and crunched the numbers. Here is an idea of how busy to expect Lynden Pindling International Airport(LPIA)to be in by 2015 if the new rooms and all the existing room inventory in the New Providence market are all going to be filled to sustainable levels.

Hotels are seldom full all the time, so first, experts suggested an occupancy level of 70 percent as a target for the new rooms. That brings us to 1540 people, if only one person were to occupy each room. If an assumption of at least two people per room is made instead(some travel alone, but most visitors travel with family and friends), that brings the estimated additional passengers in relation to the 2,200 rooms to 3,080.

That number needs to be doubled to account for a turnover rate of two times per week, again a realistic suggestion according to industry experts interviewed byGuardian Business. Guests typically don’t stay for a week or longer. The result is an expectation of 6,160 persons every week.

Foreign air arrivals to New Providence by first port of entry for 2009 were reported at 955,125 according to Ministry of Tourism preliminary data, available online. Data for 2010 is not available yet. A simple multiplication of 6,160 additional weekly passengers based on 52 weeks in a year results in an additional 320,320 passengers annually. Compared to 2009 figures, that represents an increase of 33.5%in arrivals, suggesting additional airlift of a similar increment to put paying bodies into those additional rooms.

However, airlines do not always fly full either. One specialist suggested a load factor of 60 to 70 percent for the airlines. Taking 70 percent as the standard, this would mean that to bring in 302,000 passengers, airlines would have to fly in about 457,000 additional seats per year.

How many extra flights does this mean on a weekly basis?Any attempt at a scientific estimation becomes a lot more complex here. Flights vary from small propeller planes to jets capable of trans-Atlantic flights. Just within the Boeing 737 line, capacity varies from 132 passengers to 168 passengers, based on the most popular models and data available on them.

Just to make the illustration, we assume only jets coming in with a 150-passenger capacity. An additional weekly load of 6,160 passengers, divided by the 70%load factor presents a total seat count of 8,800. Divide that by a 150 capacity assumption and the number of additional weekly jet flights comes in at 59(rounded up).

Admittedly, the last assumption on capacity is the least scientific. The Bahamas will have lots of different types of aircraft flying in, and the increase in airlift in the peak season will be much more than that in the low season. Nevertheless the idea of 59 additional jet flights each week begins to paint the picture of how busy LPIA will be in 2015 if the existing room inventory and the new players in the market are all going to survive.

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