Grand Bahama welcomes first international commercial flights since reopening of borders

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — On Thursday, July 2, Grand Bahama welcomed its first set of international commercial flights since The Bahamas officially reopened its borders on July 1.

Silver Airways made its return to Grand Bahama from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday afternoon. The SAAB 340B aircraft brought 17 passengers to the island. The national flag carrier, Bahamasair, also departed Fort Lauderdale and landed at the Fixed Base Operation (FBO) at the Grand Bahama International Airport that afternoon. The ATR 72-600 aircraft carried 44 passengers on board.

Upon arrival, visitors and returning residents were met by Ministry of Health representatives who checked their temperatures. The health officials also checked and verified passenger documents, as visitors traveling to The Bahamas are required to present negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test results no more than seven days old.

Silver Airways passenger Graham Waiting said he seized his first opportunity to return to his second home in Grand Bahama.

“I have a house down here and because of COVID, I haven’t been able to get down until today,” Waiting said. “Now, I’m just going to relax and go to the beach and go fishing.”

As part of its phased opening, The Bahamas reopened its borders to boaters and private aviation on June 15. Now that all international guests are welcome to visit, Steven Johnson, general manager for the Grand Bahama office of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA), said he looks forward to getting Grand Bahama back on track.

GBI Reopening

Photo Credit: SURGE Media Photo/Tim Aylen

“To have Silver Airways and Bahamasair touch down again in Grand Bahama, this is an exciting time for us,” Johnson said. “This is just the start. This is good for Grand Bahama. This is good to get us moving. We have travel agents calling us from all over the world asking about Grand Bahama. They want to come here to experience the beauty of Grand Bahama, the beaches, the people, our food and we’re ready to receive them.”

Taxi Driver Chris Wells also shared a positive outlook for tourism on Grand Bahama. He said his community of taxi drivers are very eager to get back to work.

“It feels excellent to be back in business after such a long period. We look forward to the opportunities that will present themselves,” Welles said. “I’m hoping for the best and trying to stay conscious and aware of my surroundings and my practices. I really did miss the industry. I love being a taxi driver. I love meeting people from other cultures and teaching them about my culture and being an ambassador for the country.”

With international travel in progress again, tourism officials are continuing their efforts to prepare all guest-facing professionals for the influx of visitors to the island.

The BMOTA Grand Bahama office has facilitated a series of Tourism Business Compliance Training sessions, the latest of which were held in the Smith’s Point community and West Grand Bahama. BMOTA launched the training program in early June to educate tourism and hospitality workers about new and existing protocols, including measures to ensure health and safety, proper waste management, social distancing, hygienic practices, and hospitable customer service.

Over 600 tourism practitioners on Grand Bahama have completed the training to date.

“We’re making sure that everybody within the tourism industry is going through the training program, from vendors and cab drivers to sales clerks,” Johnson said. “These individuals are on the front lines of tourism and are essential to our success as an industry. We want to make sure our professionals are equipped to provide exceptional customer service while reinforcing the necessary measures to keep themselves and our guests safe.”

 

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