A year after the COVID-19 pandemic brought the global tourism industry to a near standstill, Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) is finally catching a glimpse of better times.
Kiwoni Richardson, a taxi driver, said for months, drivers were sleeping at the airport in attempts to be near the front of the line for jobs. But he said in recent weeks, things are looking up.
“For the last three weeks, we saw a little increase where we could manage and it’s been good to us,” he said.
“So, I must say we used to see 300 [people each day]. Now, we’re seeing about a thousand a day or more.”
He added, “Some of us slept out here from 9 p.m. at night until the next morning and sometimes, you’d get one job a day.
“…But for the past month, we have been allowed maybe two jobs a day and that has been good to us. But one job a day was tough.”
The father of three said at times, it felt impossible to support his family, but now, he is feeling hopeful.
“It looks like we’re going to have life again,” he said.
VIP Service Specialist Nashon Rolle said it’s been refreshing seeing tourists again.
“It was like heaven on earth because you know we depend on this,” he said.
“This is our bread and butter. So, we’re delighted for the [uptick].
“…We’re delighted to see tourists again.”
He added, “And hopefully it continues, especially with the increase in vaccines. So, we’re looking forward to a robust second quarter.”
Over the past year, LPIA has often resembled a ghost town, but an influx of spring break travelers has helped to remedy that in recent weeks. Lynette McKeon, who traveled with her family from New Jersey, said they decided to come because they felt The Bahamas was a safe place to travel in the midst of a pandemic.
She said she and her family did not regret their decision.
“We had a great time here,” said the New Jersey mother.
“It was lovely. We were at Atlantis, Paradise Island. We have friends that invited us to come.
“This is our first vacation since the pandemic hit. We decided to come because they’ve gone to great lengths in terms of the way they’re keeping it safe – the health travel visa you have to get just to get here.
“Once you’re here, everywhere you look, you’ve got the sanitizer stations. You have to do a check-in five days after you arrive.
“We really felt very comfortable and very safe there and we had a great time.
“It was nice to finally get away after over a year.”
The McKeons were just a few of the hundreds of people scheduled to depart on Thursday.
According to LPIA’s US and international arrivals data sheet, an estimated 2,220 arrivals were expected that same day.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) said it has seen steady but incremental monthly increases in domestic traffic since November 2020.
NAD noted that the airport experienced a slight downturn in international passengers during February, but said March has shown “a positive upward trend” that it is hoped will continue throughout 2021.
Theria Thompson, a passenger service agent, said the increase in activity is welcome news for employees who spent much of the last year at home.
“This is good for business, not only for the airport but also for the employees who have been home for almost a year or a little over a year for most of us,” she said.
“So, this is good news.”
Thompson added, “I see a silver lining and things are getting better, so it’s good news. I’m happy, excited to be back.”