The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) explained in a recent press release that it is disappointed that Sunwing Travel Group has decided to discontinue its flights from Canada and the U.S. into Grand Bahama, noting that Sunwing enjoyed millions of dollars worth of support from the Bahamas government.
Sunwing announced last week in a press release that it would stop operating in Grand Bahama next year, because it reached an impasse in negotiations with the government.
However, the MOT lamented that despite the millions in concessions given to Sunwing that government thought would eventually decrease, Sunwing “made further demands for restoration of the $250 instant air credit and exemption from requirements that protect Bahamian labor and employment”.
Sunwing’s press release, penned by its Chief Marketing and Technology Officer Janine Massey, suggested that Grand Bahama hotels will suffer next summer due to Sunwing’s decision.
Massey said in the release that Sunwing had consistently exceeded its promised load factors when bringing Americans and Canadians to Grand Bahama, and helped to keep many Grand Bahama hotels open.
The MOT’s statement yesterday fired back, saying: “While we appreciate investments Sunwing made locally in Grand Bahama, the Ministry of Tourism more than matched their efforts to support these programs.
“Sunwing received a multimillion-dollar airlift subsidy annually from the Ministry of Tourism. The Sunwing Travel Group also received subsidies and concessions from the government of The Bahamas for Memories Resort and Spa in Grand Bahama.
“The government of The Bahamas and the Ministry of Tourism extended generous support to Sunwing in an effort to help them reach the agreed goal in terms of visitors delivered to Grand Bahama Island. Grand Bahama Island remains a priority as we rebuild the tourism product and create demand.”
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said in the MOT statement that the government has shown Sunwing “an abundance of goodwill” that led to a joint effort in rebuilding tourism on Grand Bahama.
D’Aguilar said while the government does not negotiate in the public domain, “we will continue to value Sunwing’s partnership and to be very transparent in our dealings”.
The MOT statement said some of the activities conducted through the MOT to promote the Sunwing service included travel trade show participation; consumer travel and adventure shows; special advertising inserts in wedding, family travel and groups publications; webinars to train travel agents on Grand Bahama Island; sales calls to travel agents; e-newsletter features on Grand Bahama to MOT’s travel agent database; familiarization trips for top sales agents; deals and offers promoted broadly via e-mail; and live remote television broadcasts with top Canadian morning shows.
Over the past two years, Sunwing subsidiary Blue Diamond Resorts, which managed Memories Grand Bahama, struggled with Memories property owner Hutchison Whampoa over “failed attempts” to finalize a reopening date after Hurricane Matthew.
Sunwing had threatened to pull out of Grand Bahama before over the same controversy.
Massey’s email said Sunwing “has invested the last six years and tens of millions of its own money in the revitalization of Grand Bahama Island”.
“It is unfortunate for the island and the people of Grand Bahama that after all this hard work, tourism is now going to go backwards to its lowest levels in decades,” she said.
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