Family Island Resorts Laud Tourism Promo

FAMILY Island hotels are lauding the Ministry of Tourism's Free Family Island Fare promotion, with some owners telling Tribune Business they think it could "markedly" increase foreign and domestic tourism.

Co-Owner of Gems at Paradise Private Beach Resort on Long Island, Shavonne Darville, said even with an average 40 per cent visitor occupancy, she is hopeful more people will take advantage of the free airfare.

According to Mrs Darville, her resort is more reasonably priced than others in the area, so traditionally attracted a large amount of Bahamians. However, she is hopeful that the free airfare, which requires a minimum four-night stay at participating resorts, will also boost foreign travel to the islands.

"We feel pretty positive and are hoping it would transcend into business for the Family Islands," said Mrs Darville.

"The main point (of contention) was accessibility into the Out Islands, because it has been quite expensive to travel to the Out Islands. It's far cheaper to fly from Nassau to the US and back, and given that the guest will enjoy free airfare [from Nassau to the Family Islands] it should be a big plus."

She said her business's performance has been much the same compared to last year's numbers, and hopes the promotion will herald an increase in the final three quarters of 2010.

General Manager of February Point Resort in Exuma, Matthew Marco, said Exuma has already recognised the benefit of increased airlift with the arrival of Air Canada last month.

He added that February Point and other resorts have received some room nights as a result of the new airlift, which came as a direct result of the opening of the new Sandals Resort. Mr Marco said the resort had seen a 60 per cent increase in rentals year-over-year. "We have seen a marked increase in rental and property sales, even as a lot of competitors have been bankrupt and entered into receivership," he said.

He added that February Point was excited about the prospects the promotion will bring to the hotel and to Exuma. The resort is expecting 100 per cent occupancy for the upcoming Exuma Regatta.

General manager of the landmark resort, Club Peace and Plenty, Neville Leechoy, said the promotion was worth a try. He said uncommonly long and severe winter weather stunted travel in the first three months of the year, hurting business his resort may have typically enjoyed.

However, Mr Leechoy said right now Bahamians and foreigners alike have a "good deal" coming for them through the promotion.

"It should be a wonderful programme," he said. "We need to try everything possible to put heads in beds."

He added that confidence is high that there will be a healthy sign of recovery when the promotion comes into full force.

"It will be successful if we put our efforts and energy into it, and make all the elements fire," Mr Leechoy said.

Source: The Tribune