An increase in scheduled air seats for Exuma and North Eleuthera is an unintended but positive result of Hurricane Dorian, according to Senior Director of Airlift Development in the Ministry of Tourism Tyrone Sawyer, who said numbers reflect an increase year over year for scheduled flight seats.
In fact, he said Exuma and Eleuthera have become the two most sought-after Family Islands.
“One of the things that we’ve benefited from is the fact that because of Dorian and the discontinuation of flights into Freeport and Marsh Harbour, we would have seen more flights into George Town, Exuma, and by Delta from Atlanta into North Eleuthera, so we would have seen an unintended outcome from Dorian which hurt us in Grand Bahama and Abaco, but would have helped us somewhat by virtue of the fact that we got more seats and better productivity into both Exuma and North Eleuthera,” Sawyer told Guardian Business yesterday.
“It makes us understand the significance of Abaco and the importance of us getting Abaco back up and running. We see that as a national imperative for ourselves, so all of our efforts are tracking to make that happen as quickly as possible.”
Sawyer said he expects bookings in general to surpass the first quarter of last year, a projection that has already been made by the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, which last month reported that foreign air and sea arrivals data showed arrivals to The Bahamas up by 14.1 percent between January to June 2019 year-to-date (YTD) compared to the same period of 2018, with foreign air arrivals up by 15.9 percent between January to June 2019 YTD compared to the same period of 2018.
“The amount of air seats that we have scheduled, airline seats coming actually improved year over year and it’s tracking slightly above December through April year over year, so slightly above and that’s a very good accomplishment, bearing in mind the hit that we took from Hurricane Dorian in September,” Sawyer said.
“Because usually what happens when you have that sort of catastrophic event, people just think of The Bahamas as one landmass and the seats tend to go away or decrease. But the markets we’ve reached out to, and though some have decreased the load, others have increased and as we look at the entire amount of air seats from all of the different originating gateways, it is still tracking just above the 2019 level for January, February, March and April.”
Sawyer clarified the distinction between seat capacity – which is the amount of seats that are scheduled – versus flight performance or the load factor performance of the flights themselves. Nevertheless, the tourism executive said the industry’s outlook appears positive in general.
“We want to distinguish between the two things. But what I can say to you is that we saw a hit in September because of the storm and we would have seen a slight drop-off also in October and to some extent in November,” he said.
“But we’ve seen from December going forward evidence of a resurgence in consumer demand for our destination, because it’s really the demand that’s going to drive our total performance going forward.”