STATEMENT ON SUNWING TRAVEL GROUP ANNOUNCEMENT
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is very disappointed that Sunwing Travel Group decided to discontinue flights from Canada and the U.S. (operating as Vacation Express) into Grand Bahama Island. While we appreciate investments Sunwing made locally in Grand Bahama, the Ministry of Tourism more than matched their efforts to support these programs. 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. Sunwing’s further demands for restoration of the $250 instant air credit and exemption from requirements that protect Bahamian labor and employment are simply beyond the bounds.
“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. Under a Heads of Agreement (HOA) 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,” said Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Dionisio D’Aguilar. “We do not negotiate with partners in the public domain,” said Minister D’Aguilar, “but we will continue to value Sunwing’s partnership and to be very transparent in our 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. Many other activities were conducted to promote the Sunwing service including:
- travel trade show participation;
- consumer travel and adventure shows;
- special advertising inserts in wedding, family travel and groups publications;
- webinars to train travel agents on Grand Bahama Island;
- sales calls to travel agents;
- e-newsletter features on Grand Bahama to BMOT’s travel agent database;
- familiarization trips for top sales agents;
- deals and offers promoted broadly via e-mail; and
- live remote television broadcast with top Canadian morning show.
The Government of The Bahamas and the Ministry of Tourism extended generous support to Sunwing in an effort to help them reach the agreed goal in terms of visitors delivered to Grand Bahama Island. Grand Bahama Island remains a priority as we rebuild the tourism product and create demand.