Nassau, The Bahamas – Economic sustainability expands in Exuma with the Ministry of Tourism’s newest addition to its aviation destination schedule — the Miami to Exuma inaugural flight.
On November 18, American Airlines landed its flight of at least 50 visitors on the tarmac of the Exuma International Airport in Georgetown, shortly after sunset.
“In order for us to really understand the several steps we went through, in order to get to this point, we have to find Gordon Butch Stewart,” said Senator Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, Minister of Tourism.
“If he hadn’t come and stepped up to the plate, when we saw what was happening to the property he now occupies so magnificently, there is no way in the world we could be in the position to talk about jet service from Canada, jet service from Atlanta, and now jet service from Miami, with American Eagle providing this quality of service for the very first time.”
Expansion of the Bahamian destination service, departing the United States, marks the airline’s recent commitment to Tourism’s expansion strategy — a 20-year old plan to connect the islands of The Bahamas through air travel.
“If anyone was to fly the 311 miles from Miami to Georgetown, they prefer to fly on a jet. We hope as time goes on to see it increase in the quality of service, so not only are we providing for this magnificent jewel in the middle which is called Sandals, but for all of the people who need to get service that are coming in to the Exumas,” said Mr. Vanderpool Wallace.
“We are reminding people that The Bahamas is a region. It’s not just a destination. For the longest period of time, some people thought of The Bahamas as just Nassau and Paradise Island. The only way they have come to understand is by having products and experiences, beyond the Nassau and Paradise Island one that are of sufficient quality, to demand this kind of attention and this kind of attraction. And so, this is the beginning of putting the Exumas as a destination by itself on the map.”
The arrival in Georgetown brought in tourist couples, staying at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort, which is the 2010 recipient of the Green Star Diamond Award, from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. The all-inclusive resort stimulates Exumas economy, by providing the majority of jobs for family islanders, as well as interacting in the community through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.
“Exuma is one of the most precious beautiful places on Earth, and of course, The Bahamas has many pearls but the Exumas certainly has the shine of the very best, among the top,” said Gordon Stewart, chairman of Sandals Resorts International.
Visitors were escorted from the plane to the airport welcome ceremony by an exclusive butler service. The added hospitality was provided by the 183-room resort, which maintains a consistent 90 percent occupancy rate, since its opening less than a year ago.
“Today is a milestone because you really are not a destination, unless you can have jet service. This aircraft will come everyday and on the weekends, twice a day,” said Mr. Stewart.
“American [Airlines] really has been the backbone of the Caribbean as far as air lift is concerned. We are in a position where you can’t swim to the destination. You have to fly. Some people come by boat and that takes a little longer. That’s their holiday. Typically you need jet service. Thanks to the Exuma community and thanks to American for the gamble.”
Staff from the Exuma Tourist Office joined Senator Vanderpool-Wallace at the ceremony and formed a welcome gauntlet from the plane to the terminal, to the beat of Junkanoo drums and melodic horns. Local Government Official, Floyd Armbrister, also made his presence at the ceremony to welcome the island’s guests.
“There is no question whatsoever that this begins to put Exuma on the map in a very special way. So what we are witnessing tonight is something that’s very special and the kind of teamwork that Gordon Butch Stewart talked about tonight is the kind of teamwork that we want to have as a hallmark of how we operate in The Bahamas,” said Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace.
By Gena Gibbs
Bahamas Information Services