Chinese tourists are becoming more and more interested in spending holidays in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean in general. However, according to a top executive at Air China, direct service to the Bahamas is not yet an option for Chinese travellrs. China’s flag carrier is instead targeting more flights to North America’s centric cities and striking up partnerships with local carriers to funnel traffic into the region.
The vice president and general manager for North America at Air China, Zhihang Chi, stated that the airline has ordered the whopping amount of $10.7 billion worth of new aircraft that will help it to achieve this end. “We still don’t have that airplane to effectively fly direct,” Chi said “It will be based on partnerships through North America and creating connecting traffic. If you want to fly an airplane to Nassau directly, you’re bound to lose money. There is no question about it.”
Speaking at the Routes of America 2012 conference, the Air China chief stated that he is now occupied with a series of meetings in order to prepare the airline’s continued expansion. Chi also added that the carrier has grown between 10 percent and 12 percent for the past few years. “The only way to make flights work into the Caribbean is to fly into a thick getaway city such as Miami, Atlanta or New York City,” he explained “From there, put Chinese passengers on a connecting flight operated by say JetBlue or Southwest or American Eagle.”
Chinese tourism in the Bahamas and in the Caribbean has been a much talked about issue among tourism officials. The $6.2 billion Baha Mar project on Cable Beach, broke ground one year ago. This ambitious development which will help make Bahamas holidays more attractive and appealing to Chinese travellers was funded by the Export-Import Bank of China, with construction provided by China Construction America.
The Bahamian government is pursuing an e-distribution system in order to make the process of obtaining visas for Chinese tourists a lot simpler. Chi expressed he felt his initiative was essential to increasing airlift into the Caribbean. “We cannot get enough passengers,” he said “We see them as gold. If they want to come to Nassau, we want them to fly Air China either to New York or some other location and connect. I don’t want them to fly to a US carrier to Miami and then down here. We want that business. We are completely dedicated to that.”
Zhihang Chi thinks that the Bahamas government should concentrate on doing more to promote the country in China and “spend some dollars”. While Chinese travellers find the concept of a tropical paradise motivating, there are other similar destinations in the Indian Ocean geographically closer to them, and The Bahamas’ tourism industry should work hard to sell Bahamas hotels and resorts, and draw in Chinese visitors with more publicity. The more presence the Bahamas has in China the better.
Chi also made clear that airlift is not the only consideration for potential tourism centres. The average Chinese tourist spends $6,500 each, mostly because they enjoy shopping in foreign locales. “The Chinese tourist is the biggest spender, they have more disposable income and want to splurge. Everything in the U.S. and Caribbean is a bargain. Chinese tourists are already there. And more will be coming.” Chi concluded