NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The largest shareowner of one of Exuma’s principal properties is looking forward to a follow-through on promises of a new airport, with thousands of guests now “busting out” of the current facility.
Grand Isle investor Peter Nicholson said if the island were to accommodate the visitor arrival growth of its current trajectory, the new development would have to be a top priority.
“We are completely busting out of the existing airport built in early 1990s,” he told Eyewitness Business.
“On a Sunday we’ll have an Air Canada flight coming in filled with Sandals guests and a lot of people in Grand Isle.
“We have a flight every day from Atlanta, Americans coming from Miami, so we’ll have people everywhere in the airport – 150 outside the door and we have 300 coming in.
“I see airlift improving dramatically and growing, so we need to expand the airport.”
Nicholson’s comments come as Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis pledged to move ahead with significant capital works on the island.
Design plans for the new airport were revealed at a town hall meeting on the island recently, with the Prime Minister announcing road upgrades, health facility upgrades and a lifting of a moratorium on taxi and rental care license plates.
The move is expected to prime Exuma ahead of projected growth in tourism activity and an overall boost in its economy.
“Your economy is growing. Your tourist numbers are growing… your airport will become obsolete. It must have improvement. You must have improvement,” Prime Minister Minnis said.
Nicholson said the demand for renting homes in Exuma has skyrocketed recently an expects to see demand for more airlift increase as the island grows in popularity. Grand Isle is now operating at nearly 70 per cent occupancy, with a recent opening of its new 30,000-square-foot 23 North Beach Club expected to appeal not just to well-heeled visitors, but also the trendy travel millennial group who lost out on a chance to enjoy the Exumas at the doomed Fyre Festival.
The occupancy levels represent a turnaround of events for the southern island, two years after the event scheduled for April and May of 2017 failed. Indicating that where the festival failed, two documentaries covering the events surrounding the botched event succeeded. The documentaries, one on Netflix and Hulu, inadvertently gave the Family Islands the kind of priceless marketing exposure Tourism Ministries just could not buy.
Nicholson believes the island is on the right path for growth, with attractions like Exuma’s famous swimming pigs set to lure more visitors to its sandy shores.