NASSAU, The Bahamas – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper has branded the partnership with Virgin Atlantic an important one in tourism recovery.
He made the statement during Virgin Airlines Inaugural Ceremony after it touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.
“I would like to thank the senior executives of Virgin Atlantic for your partnership with The Bahamas and your important role in our tourism recovery.
“Together we can help re-build what COVID-19 impacted and work side by side as a resilient team. Together, we are going to make travellers very happy — Virgin Atlantic with its direct route from the UK to The Bahamas, is sure to fulfill its promise of an unforgettable vacation experience,” the minister said.
Present for the occasion were: Virgin Atlantic Airways Executives, Lee Haslett, Vice-President Global Sales, Virgin Atlantic; Nicola O’Halloran, Director of Sales, Virgin Atlantic; Ricardo Rolle, General Manager, Nassau Flight Services; Stephanie Demeritte, Director of Security, Airport Authority; trade partners from the UK, officials of the Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, and other officials.
“Today, we are delighted to welcome Virgin Atlantic to our islands to celebrate Virgin’s new twice weekly flight from the UK to The Bahamas,” the minister said.
He observed that the partnership could not have come at a more critical and exciting time “full of opportunities for The Bahamas as we continue our recovery from COVID-19’s effects on international travel.”
“It is a pleasure to see Virgin Atlantic join the growing number of air carriers that are restoring the connection between travellers and the warm, welcoming people of The Bahamas.”
Tourism is the engine of the Bahamian economy and according to the minister, visitors from the United Kingdom are of crucial importance to The Bahamas. Visitors by air are of crucial importance, he said, adding that the spend of one air visitor is equal to that of 28 cruise visitors, which is significant.
“As we launch tourism recovery following the steep economic decline brought on by the pandemic, increasing the number of air visitors to our destination stands as an imperative of first order.
“This goal is achievable through many avenues, chief of which are assertive marketing, creating greater demand for travel to our destination, and most importantly, increasing airlift. As such, we thank Virgin Atlantic for partnering with our destination at a critical juncture in the economic development of our nation,” the minister said.
He noted that despite the shutdown of much of the tourism economy for the last 18 months, The Bahamas’ tourism product remains resilient.
Furthermore, tourism numbers have been on an upward trajectory since November/December 2020, when the COVID protocols and requirements for international travellers were stabilized, he said.
The minister shared that Bahamas stopover tourist arrivals are now approaching 2019 levels for the corresponding periods. Some key source markets show that the numbers are well beyond their 2019 levels. In September 2021, total international stopover arrivals to The Bahamas from its key source markets were only 12.1 percent below September 2019 figures.
“With Virgin Atlantic, we believe that we can continue along our road of recovery and restoration and return stronger than before,” the minister said.
He pointed out that with 16 islands across the archipelago offering world-class fishing, diving, boating, birding and nature-based activities, that The Bahamas continues to be acknowledged as one of the best destinations in the world. Additionally, for the seventh consecutive year, The Bahamas has been named the Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Island Destination, by the World Travel Awards, the most prestigious and comprehensive in the global industry.
“The coming months are crucial but we are optimistic. Forward bookings for this winter season are steady and our absolute priority is to return tourist numbers to pre-COVID levels. The new increased airlift from Virgin Atlantic will undoubtedly help us achieve this,” the minister said.