• Demand “is growing faster than airlines can adapt”
• The head of BHTA describes it as a “good problem to have”
• “Value for money” essential on Florida roads
By NEIL HARTNELL
Editor-in-chief of the Tribune
Yesterday, the president of the Hotels and Tourism Association of the Bahamas (BHTA) expressed concern that the high prices of airline tickets, especially on peak weekends and holidays, ” could be a deterrent ”for travel to this country.
Robert Sands told Tribune Business that tourism demand exceeding airlift capacity was “a good problem to have” as the Bahamas seek to rebuild their main industry after the devastation of COVID-19, with the desire to travel to this destination “faster and faster that some airlines can adjust”.
He spoke after other tourism officials interpreted weekend round-trip costs of $ 650 between Nassau and Florida as a sign that pent-up demand for the Bahamas could exceed industry capacity. air travel, as major source markets, particularly the United States, keep pace with their COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Kerry Fountain, executive director of the Out Island Promotion Board, told this newspaper: “I have to fly to Nassau for a funeral this weekend, but I can tell you the airfares to Nassau are already high. . This means to me that there is a huge demand and we may not have enough places because the prices are alarming.
“I’m arriving on a JetBlue flight costing $ 450 one way, and on Sunday I’m flying Bahamasair, traveling on two airlines due to availability. The one-way ticket is $ 200. You are talking about $ 650 for a return ticket. I’m complaining because we have to pay out of pocket, but that means we have more demand than supply and more people are traveling. I can live with this. “
His assessment was echoed by Mr Sands, who said: “I am afraid that the level of [airline] prices are currently where they are. As we continue to add additional air travel, where the loads are not as high, we will see more price elasticity. We have to believe that the airlines are managing the performance. They’ve been through a tough, tough time, and what they’re doing is performance management.
“It is not working to our advantage at the moment, and price sensitivities can deter pent-up demand and people wanting to travel to a particular destination. We’ve seen some of it, especially on weekends and peak holiday weekends, but we’re starting to see rates stabilize.
“Demand, certainly on peak weekends and prime time, is growing faster than some airlines can adapt to build additional capacity. They work with us. It is a continual work in progress. In a way, and I’m not saying that irony, that’s a good problem to have, ”Sands continued.
“It’s obviously something where we want to have good value for money to get to where we are going, especially if they’re coming from Florida. It shouldn’t be more expensive to get to Nassau from Florida than from New York.
Mr Sands said the start of the Bahamas cruise line home port means “management of the airlift to the destination will need to be closely monitored due to this new industry.”
Noting that airlines are committing to “tiered pricing in terms of availability on planes,” he added that a group seat reservation for passengers traveling to Nassau to meet the ship or departing after disembarkation could both increase the price of tickets and reduce the capacity of stopover visitors, unless the problem has been resolved.
And, with Canada still banning direct air travel to the Bahamas and other destinations, the BHTA chairman said there were “a number of issues related to COVID-19 still impacting demand.” in the Bahamas.
“We are always looking for an additional airlift in the market, but as the demand increases the number of aircraft seats will also increase, and we are seeing week after week, month after month. introduction of an additional airlift into the destination, ”said Mr. Sables added.
“Once we adjust to the growing demand and air travel continues to flow, we will see the impact on pricing structures at some gateways to the Bahamas. I am not aware of cases where people cannot get flights. We continue to increase the number of airlifts entering the destination. We are far from where we were, and as we develop tourism activity, air transport will increase at the same time.
Mr Sands pointed to the recent returns of British Airways, London, and Copa Airlines from its Panama gateway to Latin America as signs that the airlift is returning as demand for Bahamian vacations increases.