Abaco held a grand welcome for the inaugural flight from Tampa Bay, Florida by Silver Airways on Saturday, February 14 with a special ceremony highlighting the benefits of the new connection.
Chris Minner, Vice President of Marketing at Tampa International Airport, said that Abaco was one of the most requested destination surveyed at the airport and expects the flight will benefit each other tremendously.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General at the Ministry of Tourism, said that “one of the strategic goals and initiatives that Tourism is looking at is expanding and opening new gateways, from Florida in particular, which accounts for a huge percentage of our market, but we tend to concentrate on Southern Florida and the Eastern Seaboard of Florida.”
She said that Tourism knows “opportunities abound further afield, from Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.” With this in mind Tourism made a concerted effort to engage more gateways to the country and a “tri-partnership” formed between the Ministry of Tourism, Silver Airways and Tampa International Airport.
Mr. Minner said that Tampa is the fastest growing market in Florida and “many wealthy people live in Tampa Bay and they have chosen Tampa Bay because it is a beautiful place to live. They love their boats and they love the opportunity to travel from Tampa International Airport.”
He said that Marsh Harbour for several years has been the number one requested destinations and that Tampa International Airport has the largest percentage of originating travel of any major market in the state of Florida, with 22 percent of passengers at Tampa International beginning their journey there.
He noted that Silver Airways has nine flights and serves more than 200,000 passengers annually at Tampa International Airport and “have quickly become a staple of the service that we offer.”
Ms. Jibrilu said “We’re delighted with the partnership with Silver Airways; they account for about 45 percent of the air traffic into the family islands.”
She said that this new flight opens up a “tremendous opportunity for both leisure travelers and romantics, wanting to get away. It opens up a tremendous opportunity for boating, yachting and seeing the best that Abaco has to offer, with ease.”
Mr. Minner complimented the new Airport Terminal and the hospitality they have experienced here in Marsh Harbour; “truly extraordinary, I’ve never had a welcome like this anywhere that I have been.”
He went on to say to the people of Marsh Harbour and Abaco that if they are looking for good places to shop, or to have a wonderful time, Tampa has a lot to offer in the area surrounding the airport. He also said that they have excellent universities; “we have the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and St. Leo’s University, all home to many Bahamian students who like to be close to home.”
Ms. Jibrilu said that they are also excited about the upcoming Fort Lauderdale and New York flights by Meregrass, who is a private charter company but they will be doing scheduled flights “which broadens and opens up more opportunities for Abaco.”
She spoke of the Ministry of Tourisms commitment to “showcase the beauty and diversity of the Bahamas.” She added that the airport in Marsh Harbour is something to be proud of; “Now that we have the airport and infrastructure in place we can get the airlift here.”