Direct flights to GB: Vision Airlines to begin new routes in Nov.
By Navardo Saunders
Grand Bahama's stagnant economy is expected to get a major boost when the U.S based low-cost carrier Vision Airlines begins direct service between the island and at least five cities in the United States, Tourism Minister Senator Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace announced during a press conference at Our Lucaya hotel.
Through a public/private partnership agreement that has been struck between the government and Vision Airlines an additional 100,000 airline seats will be available for non-stop jet service between Grand Bahama and Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; Rale-igh/Durham North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting in November, with fares as low as $99 roundtrip.
"This is just the sort of thing that is needed for the rebirth of the Magic City," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "This is great news for Grand Bahama. It's something very special."
The announcement comes at a time when tourist arrivals to the island have taken a sharp decline due in large part to the high costs of airfare.
In spite of the fact that Grand Bahama is in close proximity to major U.S. cities, Vanderpool-Wallace pointed out that many U.S. residents refuse to visit because of the exorbitant costs of airfare.
"We have spent a lot of time talking about Grand Bahama being uncompetitive by air," Vanderpool-Wallace said. "We had to do something about it and finally the right kind of partnership that we have been talking about all the time has come along."
An aggressive marketing and advertising campaign has already begun to inform U.S. residents about Vision Airlines' services to Grand Bahama and some of the wonderful things the island has to offer, Vanderpool-Wallace said, as a number of high ranking government and private sector officials, including Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing; Minister of Public Works Neko Grant; Minister of Housing Kenneth Russell; Senator David Thompson and Grand Bahama Port Authority president and vice president Ian Rolle and Ginger Moxey, respectively, looked on.
When Vision Airlines begins its service it will mark an end to a seven-year drought in non- stop jet service to Grand Bahama that had been provided by Grand Bahama Vacations through the now defunct Laker Airways.
In 2004 when the service ceased, following back-to-back hurricanes that for the most part left the island in a shambles, there was a noticeable decline in visitors and tourist hotspots such as the casino, which lost many customers when the service ceased, have experienced a significant downturn in business. The Vision Airlines deal is the kind the casino and other tourism stakeholders have long hoped for.
Senior vice president of Vision Airlines David Meers said that Vision intends to do for Grand Bahama what it has done for the Gulf Coast following the huge oil spill that left many parts of the coast littered with oil.
"We have helped to revitalize tourism in the Gulf by introducing low fares and reliable service and it is a success," said Meers. "We intend to do the same for Grand Bahama Island."
Meers noted that partnering with government was not a tough sell for him because he has discovered that Grand Bahama is an extremely attractive destination with a lot to offer.
"I've been coming here for years and the experience is always great," he said. "The quality of the people and the leadership are outstanding. The island is absolutely gorgeous. It's a perfect place for a wedding, honeymoon, to vacation, relax or recover from an experience. We have already begun to spread the good news and are anxiously looking forward to bringing visitors to the island."
Vision will offer its passengers similar vacation packages as Grand Bahama Vacations such as a five-days/four-nights packages ranging from $449 to $549.00 and that includes airfare.
Anyone wanting to book a Vision seat to Grand Bahama will be able to do so online at expedia.com and other travel sites, according to Meres.
Las Vegas-based Vision, which was established in 1994 and is the U.S. newest big jet, low-cost carrier, will operate a 136 seat Boeing 737-300 aircraft for travel between Grand Bahama and the U.S cities.
Meers said that depending on the level of success, additional cities could be added.
He invited Grand Bahamians to come forward with any suggestions to make the routes as profitable as possible and attract visitors.
© 2011 The Freeport News