Traveling to the Bahamas is about to get a whole lot easier and nicer. The government recently announced that they still intend to build two new airports on the family islands.
Exuma and North Eleuthera were selected to receive the upgraded airports next. Aviation Minister, Dionisio D’Aguilar explained that these two were prioritized as they have the highest activity.
D’Aguilar said, “So as you know there are 28 airports in the family islands. There is a lot of airports. The amount of funds to upgrade them all to world class level is beyond our budget. So we are in a systematic way gonna do the busiest airports first. In 2011/2012 they did the Marsh Harbour airport. Based on a study that was done the next busiest one is Exuma. The one after that is North Eleuthera. So we are going to focus on those two next.”
Tourism on Exuma has boomed in the past few years. The old airports can barely handle the current influx of visitors. The disastrous Fyre Festival, in which thousands of tourists were stranded, highlighted how ill-equipped the facility really is.
The minister stated that they want to begin one new facility every six months. That timeline may be optimistic though. Plans to improve family island airports were originally announced more than eight months ago. At the time, it was estimated that each project would cost around $35 million.
The high costs of building these much-needed facilities make a compelling case for the government use of public-private partnership to fund. The minister said that the designs for Exuma’s new airport are almost completed and will soon be open for bidding.
Some locals are skeptical about the use of public-private partnerships. They worry it will be government officials just using companies they have close ties to. However, D’Aguilar highlights why the government is going that route.
“If you do one airport at a time it will take forever,” He said. “So my vision is we gotta start Exuma and then six months later start North Eleuthera and that’s going to require a lot of funds in order to do that so we have to look to the private sector to see where they can assist in helping us to achieve our goal to deliver a much better airport product.”
While some may debate the method of funding, everyone can agree that Exuma is in desperate need of a new airport, as do many of the other family islands. Tourism has already outgrown the current infrastructures and the Bahamas needs to start acting to accommodate the growth.