The Ministry of Tourism expressed its disappointment with Sunwing Travel calling it’s latest move to pull out of Grand Bahama a slap in the face.
The company last week discontinued its flight services from the United States (U.S.) and Canada into Grand Bahama.
In a statement, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said he fully supports comments made by Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson on Friday.
According to the statement, while it appreciates investments Sunwing made locally in Grand Bahama, the Ministry of Tourism more than matched their efforts to support these programs.
“Successive governments partnered with Sunwing Travel Group – with an abundance of goodwill – to lead a concerted effort to re-build tourism to Grand Bahama Island in a sustainable way,” D’Aguilar said. “Under a Heads of Agreement with Sunwing for the management of the Memories Resort, the government provided very robust financial support to ensure the success of Spring/Summer flights from various U.S. cities to Grand Bahama Island.”
Sunwing received a multimillion-dollar, airlift subsidy annually from the Ministry of Tourism. The Sunwing Travel Group also received subsidies and concessions from the Government of The Bahamas for Memories Resort and Spa in Grand Bahama.
Sunwing Travel Group had the particularly valuable advantage of operating a suite of integrated businesses including a travel agency, airline and hotel, which all expected would ensure that they could rebuild tourism on Grand Bahama Island sustainably rather than requiring increasing support and concessions.
The government of The Bahamas allowed Sunwing great latitude to lower the net airfare to the island through the packaging of airfare and hotel that they were in a unique position to do. The net effect of The Bahamas millions of dollars of investment in this partnership was actually multiplied by these operating concessions.
According to the ministry, Sunwing’s further demands for the restoration of the $250 instant air credit and exemption from requirements that protect Bahamian labour and employment are simply beyond the bounds.
D’Aguilar said that while the government does not negotiate with partners in the public domain, it will continue to value Sunwing’s partnership and to be very transparent in its dealings.
In addition to the subsidies, the Ministry of Tourism invested thousands of dollars for television, radio, out-of-home, digital and social media advertising that was specifically tagged to promote these flights in Toronto, Vancouver and U.S. cities.
The minister said Grand Bahama remains a priority as the ministry continues to build the tourism product and create demand.