On July 1st
of this year, the government of the Bahamas decided that it was going to drop a
bomb on the tourist sector. Without any
lead time, prior knowledge or transparency even between different government
ministries, they decided to end tourism in the Bahamas in one simple step. They raised the already ridiculously high
taxes and fees on airlift. Now I believe,
fortunately for us this was done on a national level and not just to struggling
Grand Bahama. The fact that it was done
nationally will be the only saving grace in this decision and I’ll tell you
Grand Bahama is
pretty much considered to be the unwanted stepchild of the Bahamas. Everyone knows it, everyone says it and more
than ever, everyone feels it. However,
this decision takes the cake as it was done nationwide. Now the reason that that decision may
actually save us is simple. No
government will let Nassau’s economy die.
So when potentially all airlift is suspended by the end of next week by
all service providers in North America, they will be forced to repeal this
ridiculous increase or suffer the dire consequences. If it had been just in Grand Bahama, they
would just let the island die.
This all stems
back to the changes the government made to the fees placed on airlines. Everyone knows that airlines make very small
margins on flights and many run in the red a lot of the time. Everyone also knows that tourism in the
Bahamas is struggling due to the value for dollar perception of traveling
here. Many other destinations in the
region are flourishing because of the lower costs offered to bring people to
the destinations and the perceived value of those destinations and their
tourism product. To make the Bahamas
even more expensive without raising the value offered is ridiculous.
This article was placed in the travel agent
newsletter travelweekly.com on Wednesday.
“New fees that took effect July 1 for aircraft serving
the Bahamas have prompted a strong reaction from U.S. airlines, which say they
may reduce service to the destination in response.
A new customs-processing fee is $75 per
arrival and $75 per departure for each commercial flight.
An increased customs-service charge for each
flight arriving between 5 p.m. on Sundays through 9 a.m. on Saturdays ranges
from $50 for aircraft with less than 30 seats up to $200 for planes with 70 or
In addition, the departure tax of $25 per
ticketed passenger now includes children under the age of 6, who were
The new fees are part of the 2013-2014
government budget, but airlines had less than two weeks' notice about the new
fees and no meetings with the airlines prior to the increase, according to a
“Airlines for America, the trade group for
U.S. commercial airlines, sought to clarify the new fees and the reasoning
behind them, in a June 28 letter to Charles Turner, comptroller of customs in
"This development is of particular
concern to member airlines due to the lack of notice, transparency and
cost-based justification for the new charges and increased fees. Less than two
weeks is insufficient time for airlines to reprogram their systems to
accommodate the new fees and increased charges," wrote Keith Glatz,
Airlines for America’s vice president of international affairs.
With slim profit margins and the inability
to recoup taxes and fees that airlines pay directly to governments, airlines
“may be forced to reconsider their service levels to the Bahamas,” Glatz said.
“The proposed fees may have unintended consequences and undermine the desire to
stimulate the Bahamian economy.”
Airlines for America
represents the core airlines of the United States along with associate members
from Canada. If they decide to pull out
service next week it will be all flights by: US Air, JetBlue, Delta, United
Continental, Southwest, Air Canada along with freight providers Fed Ex and UPS. If Airlines For America pulls these lines
from servicing the Bahamas, imagine how this will affect your lives. The private plane sector represented by
Florida based groups Bahamas Ambassadors and the Florida Aero Club have already
suspended all member flights to the Bahamas indefinitely.
When reports like
this are released to the world it becomes very difficult to retract a statement
or a policy. The reality of what they
have done may be too late to repair the damage.
If that is the case, most tourism based businesses including my own will
not survive. We could be going out of
business if this decision is not reversed and to me that is unacceptable.
remains the Bahamas largest employer, and the largest contributor to the GDP of
our nation. It always has been. And now on our 40th anniversary of
Independence with one simple misstep the government may have damaged that
product irreparably. Will you stand by
and watch them dismantle all of our lives without raising your voice? I will not.
It is important
to remember that politicians are elected by you as your representatives. In that way, you also have a say in how they
govern. If you do not believe that your
member of parliament is representing your point of view, make sure that it is
known. If you think this particular
issue is one worth standing up against than please join me in signing this
petition of the people to repeal these fees that will destroy the Bahamas
economy faster than any hurricane. Visit
and sign your name to the list. If you
remain silent, you are condemning this country to its fate.
If you do not
think that this will affect you in any way so why say anything? Just think of the tens of thousands of people
who will be unemployed in the tourism sector.
It’s likely someone in your family will lose their job because of
this. Things are already very tough here
and they are about to get much tougher.
The new Sunwing
venture in Grand Bahama is slated to open in November. I am awaiting a response from them on this
situation. I am quite sure there will be
a serious reaction to this from them as they are currently slated to start 6
flights a week from Canada in November.
This will have a massively negative effect on the prospects of them
continuing I can guarantee you that. The
Sunwing project with Blue Diamond Resorts was a shot in the arm that was so
desperately needed for Grand Bahama’s survival.
If due to these recent changes in policy the Sunwing group pulls out of
that project it will be the final nail in the coffin for Grand Bahama.
I plead with all
of my loyal readers to please sign the petition and make your voices
heard. It is so important to stand up
for what you believe in and to help to forge the path that we as a nation will
follow. Do not leave it solely to elected
officials. Be the change that you wish
to see yourself. Others will follow
you. I for one will not go down without
a fight. Next week, I will return to my
usual food based writing but this is definitely some Food For Thought.
(Courtesy of the Freeport News)
About the Author: Tim Tibbitts is the chef and owner of Flying Fish Modern Seafood in Freeport Bahamas. Flying Fish is the #1 rated restaurant in the Bahamas on
tripadvisor.com. You can see what Flying Fish is all about at
flyingfishmodernseafood and follow Tim on twitter @flyingfishfreep