Make Domestic Travel Affordable For Bahamians!
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is encouraging Bahamians to travel at home, but how can we afford it?
“Mr. Speaker, I would encourage Bahamians who want to spend some time abroad that they should invest and spend their monies in the Family Islands. There are nice opportunities; nice hotels, environmentally friendly, fresh air, beaches are open, you can go horseback riding, you can do many things, Mr. Speaker, so I would encourage Bahamians to visit our Family Islands so that you would see the beauty that we have within our own shores.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis made those remarks in the House of Assembly Monday, now encouraging Bahamians to travel to the Family Islands, but with no incentives to make these trips more affordable.
While Bahamasair currently has a promotion of 25% off all its domestic fares, that promotion is slated to end June 30th. It regularly costs around $200 or more – in some cases around $300 and up – to travel via the National Flag carrier to the Out Islands.
For instance, a Nassau to Freeport flight at base fair will cost $239. Once airport taxes are added, that fare goes up to $267.68.
Nassau to Marsh Harbour, Abaco costs $250.88 with taxes and to Treasure Cay, a little bit more at $262.08 with taxes.
To travel from Nassau to Eleuthera costs $212.80.
Exuma and Long Island from Nassau, respectively, will cost $250.88 and $272.16.
Further south gets a bit pricier: flights to San Salvador, Mayaguana, and Inagua will cost $318.08, $332.64, and $340.48, respectively.
Tickets to Crooked Island and Acklins from the capital cost the same at $321.44.
Oh, but it gets better... Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar recently announced that Bahamasair, which is the only airline that flies to the majority of the Bahama Islands, will soon increase its ticket prices on domestic routes by what he calls a “nominal” $20 as well as implement a baggage fee of about $20. That’s an estimated $40 to be tacked on to already high airfare to the family islands.
Then there are accommodations to consider; transportation, food and drinks, entertainment and other activities, and maybe even some shopping to make it a well-rounded vacation.
The Gallery ran a story prior to the Prime Minister’s remarks suggesting that Family Island travel be the focus right now instead of rushing to reopen borders to international travellers, particularly when the majority of visitors will come from the virus’ epicenter – the neighbouring United States with infection numbers nearing 2.5 million and some 124,000 deaths so far.
Critics of the Minnis Administration and its decision to reopen the borders at this time have voiced their concerns and have called for the government to partner with tourism stakeholders throughout the country to make inter-island travel for Bahamians more affordable.
PLP Leader Philip “Brave” Davis is now among those voices. “I agree that domestic travel should be encouraged. There are a number of benefits to be gained from this. Increasing costs will not encourage this market, however, and further adds to the already heavy economic burden this Minnis Administration seems to have no problem imposing on Bahamians,” he said.
“I believe efforts at this time ought to be channeled toward discounts and creating affordable travel packages for domestic travellers.”
“Focus on the domestic market,” he adds, “can ensure that more people throughout the Family Islands who rely on tourism to earn a living can feel some relief after three months of virtually total stagnation.”