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‘National’ carriers should have minority govt ownership, Blanchard says

CEO of Curacao Airport Partners, N.V. Ralph J. Blanchard said that a national carrier should be primarily driven by private sector investments and that government participation in such a venture should be limited to no more than 25 percent.

Currently, the Bahamian government provides the national carrier ‘Bahamasair’, which is already more than half a billion dollars in debt, with an annual subsidy. Bahamasair Managing Director Henry Woods previously said he hopes that the airline would reduce government funding to single digits in the next three years.

Blanchard told Guardian Business that a 25 percent level of government interest, if desired, is fair to both the private investors, who will depend upon the economic/tourism policies of the government for their strategic success, and the government, which will have effectively assigned a significant “branding” element (the national airline) to private sector interests.

“Private investment and management best practices should drive the ownership and direction of such domestic/national carriers, and the government’s role should be more to invest in the promotion of the touristic and commercial value of the destination, which supports all air service to the destination, and also forces the privately owned local airline to be creative and competitive in order to positively leverage their local identity,” he said.

“I do believe that for countries and territories that are in geographically challenged areas like the Caribbean, and that also depend so significantly upon tourism and other intra-region social, political and economic dynamics, the opportunity to have a national carrier to help drive the brand and the general economy of the country, is a very good thing… essentially economic insurance if managed properly and competitively.”

Blanchard also addressed the untapped market in The Bahamas for regional tourism.

“Intra-Caribbean business and leisure travel has great potential, but the air service platform that is needed to achieve that potential is still elusive and practically as a cohesive entity, is the key to getting us all there… and there is plenty for everyone.

“If a convenient and effective air transport system can be established where there is regulatory consistency, operational ease of use, a uniform and rational cost recovery/setting mechanism for all entities providing services to the system, only necessary government oversight and continued promotion of the region, there is every reason to expect that the factors that drive entrepreneurial investments and creativity will gravitate to this opportunity,” he said.


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