NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The establishment of Bahamas Customs and Immigration pre-clearance of flights in Florida is being tested by the Ministry of Tourism, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
The pre-clearance system was initially put in place by the Ministry of Finance and Bahamas Customs to facilitate the delivery of relief supplies to Abaco and Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian.
On seeing the efficiency of such a system, the Minister of Tourism persuaded two Florida airports to keep the system in place on a test basis, which was approved by the Minister of Finance and immediately embraced by airport operators, Minnis said.
He addressed members of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), which held its Annual General Meeting at the Atlantis resort on Friday.
The move is expected to improve access to Family Island destinations and diversify tourism centers across The Bahamas.
“Florida has the largest number of private pilots in the United States and the third largest number of registered aircraft,” he said.
“The Florida airport operators are now telling us that many private pilots hesitate when contemplating to fly to a foreign country. But if their approvals can be given before they take off from Florida, the operators are convinced that the traffic may substantially increase.”
Minnis said a major reason for the continuation of the pre-clearance test was the recognition that it also opens up many more islands in The Bahamas for nonstop flights without having to travel first to an official port of entry, clear Bahamas Customs and Immigration, then travel on to their desired destination.
The opportunity to facilitate and track air travel direct to one’s desired destination saves substantial time and costs, Minnis said.
“It is also likely to result in much more traffic into those Family Island destinations that are not nearby official designated ports of entry,” he continued.
“If this test is successful, this is likely to be an important plank in our plans to diversify the tourism centres across The Bahamas.”
The Ministry of Tourism is also being approached to put the same kind of pre-clearance facility in place for seagoing vessels.
In his address to the BHTA, the prime minister took the opportunity to commend the Ministry of Tourism for immediately launching a new marketing campaign to let the world know that not all of the islands of The Bahamas were impacted by Hurricane Dorian.
Minnis also noted the Ministry’s presentation at the World Routes Conference in September, which included aspects of the new marketing campaign and channeling the market message of “14 Islands Still Open for Business”.
“I am told that after the Ministry’s presentation of its marketing plan aviation representatives were so confident and optimistic about our destinations that some airlines have even added additional service, including United Airlines with a direct flight from Denver, Colorado to Nassau,” he said.
“Additionally, British Airways will be adding one additional frequency per week for its Summer schedule, going from four flights per week to five flights per week, effective end of March 2020.
“In the very near term, the Ministry of Tourism plans to unveil Phase Three of its post-Dorian campaign under the theme “Still Rockin”. The campaign highlights the resiliency of Bahamians by utilizing Bahamians to show the world that we are rebounding,” he added.