By Yasmin Popescu, The Freeport News
The question of Grand Bahama's economy is constantly in question, especially as the people see more and more businesses closing.
Rumors that Vision Airlines would be pulling out has however been dispelled by the Marketing Manager, Gini Strobel.
Strobel, in a telephone interview said that they have been here less than 90 days and they have a solid working relationship with the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and are working in partnership to strengthen the program.
"We are discussing numerous options to increase the load factors including a partnership with Bahamas- air, for them to distribute seats through their sales and distribution network" she added.
She allowed though that the marketing of the airline is the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism.
"We have been flying for less than 90 days and there has not been nearly enough advertising to compete with resorts like The Atlantis. This destination is competing with massive advertising spending by the Atlantis, and Nassau has an abundance of inexpensive air service. Grand Bahama Island is a great destination that will require a long-term strategy to rebuild this fantastic destination. I don't think GBI will be at the top of the consumer's 'visit list' with just a little bit of advertising in four cities in less than 90 days."
While the airline is the main supplier of visitors to the Lucayan Grand Resort she noted this resort has not been doing very much advertising.
Strobel said that Grand Bahama Island is a destination that has experienced a lot of neglect in terms of air service. She added that it is going to take some time to revitalize the destination in this competitive market and difficult economy
"This program will require time, money, and the destination must deliver on the consumer experience in order to build consumer loyalty," Strobel noted. "Consumers want to see more entertainment and dining options, which include a richer nightlife and sports betting in the Casino.
"Just to offer an example, The Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi is a leader in developing and marketing their gaming and entertainment resort. They consistently fill up over 1,700 rooms and they do not have the beautiful landscape that Grand Bahama Island offers. It is all about having a strong marketing and entertainment strategy that will draw in leisure travelers.
"Grand Bahama Island would be a great weekend getaway for people in South Florida, but there must be a perceived value, multiple entertainment options, and the opportunity to bet on sports. South Floridians already has a beach to visit and there are casinos however, there is no sports betting. This creates an opportunity for Grand Bahama Island."
Strobel stated that Hutchison is going to need to play a part in this.
She said that consistent air service is just a vehicle and that more important elements, like a revitalization of the destination, and a much larger advertising spending are going to need to come in to play to make this destination a top choice among leisure travelers.
Karen Seymour, Director at Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, confirmed that they are marketing the airline with online advertising and television advertisements especially in the Richmond and Florida areas where the flights originate. Added to this she said, they are doing a lot of public relations work in those areas.