GRAND BAHAMA, Bahamas, July 31, 2009 – Grand Bahama’s tourism sector has received a needed shot in the arm with WestJet Airlines announcing direct service from Toronto, Canada beginning in November.
WestJet’s 737-700 will make two weekly flights from Toronto to Freeport, offering the market 14,000 seats this winter.
Vice President of WestJet Vacations, Gregg Saretsky, said his company forecasts that it will bring about 12,000 visitors to Grand Bahama this season.
“I am confident that with the product (Grand Bahama offers) and our new direct air service, our twice weekly should be four times weekly by this time next year, and that is the goal,” he said.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Senator Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said he was confident that the destination has what it takes to attract and keep visitors coming.
“I continue to believe that of all the destinations in this part of the world, the one with the greatest potential by far is Grand Bahama Island,” he said. “And I believe that we are on the way to begin to prove that.”
The minister recalled that some 36 years ago, Grand Bahama was the number one destination in this part of the world for Canadian visitors.
The primary reason for that, he said, was because Grand Bahama was the closest destination to the eastern seaboard of Canada and at the time the island was very much alone in the tourism business.
“Since then many Caribbean countries got into tourism. The rate of growth for people who were competing was such that we found ourselves receding into the background,” said Vanderpool-Wallace.
“We cannot sit here and find every single day, as we used to find for a long period of time, that it is more expensive to come to Grand Bahama than any places of our competing destinations.”
He said the Ministry of Tourism has been diligently working with their partners in Grand Bahama to restore the proximity advantage, and it is already beginning to prove effective.
“We have begun to discover why we haven’t been doing better and we are beginning to put that together…We are now beginning to get products together that are extraordinarily competitive and I think this is the opportunity we have been looking for Grand Bahama for a very long time,” the Tourism Minister added.