Last updated: 12:00 PM ET, Tue December 22 2015

How The Bahamas Is Responding to US-Cuba Flights

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | December 22, 2015

How The Bahamas Is Responding to US-Cuba Flights

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U.S.-Cuba relations continue to thaw. An agreement for resuming flights between the two former rivals has been signed. There is no timeline for taking the next steps, however. A U.S. law that prohibits leisure travel to the Caribbean island nation is still in place for the time being, so there won’t be a huge rush of travelers even when U.S. carriers start landing in Havana. 

What does this mean for the rest of the Caribbean?

Other island destinations across the Caribbean have been closely watching how the newly friendly U.S.-Cuba relationship plays out. A completely open Cuba would certainly bring extra competition to the region. Flights from the U.S. will make the formerly forbidden island as easy to access as any other destination in the region once the seemingly inevitable announcement of the lifting of travel restrictions is announced in Washington. 

The numbers related to the air travel agreement between the U.S. and Cuba are certainly worrying for other islands in the region. The two countries have agreed to allow a maximum of 110 round-trip flights per day. That includes 20 to Havana from the U.S. and 10 each to the other nine international airports in Cuba.  

Preparing for an “open” Cuba

The Bahamas stands to lose some of its market share in North America now that direct flights to Cuba are ready to take off. However, the country wants to launch new flights of its own to Cuba. The goal of these new air links is to make the Bahamas a destination from multi-country tourism and business travel.  

The Bahamas has been seeing Cuba’s rise on the horizon for some time now. For the past several years, the country has been trying to establish air links with Cuba. The early goal was to give Canadian travelers access to Cuba via the Bahamas. In addition to service by Bahamasair and Cubana, Western Air now flies between the two Caribbean nations. Tourists from Europe have also warmed to the idea of launching a multi-destination trip from the Bahamas. The more air links that exist between the Bahamas and Cuba, the easier it will be to sell Americans on this idea as well. 

The inter-island flights can also help business people based in the Bahamas be among the first to take advantage of any economic or investment opportunities that might arise in Cuba during its process of liberalization. It should be noted that, for the most part, the Bahamas has supported the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. 

A reason to improve

The Bahamas has been looking for other ways to grow its profile. The Bahamas Bowl is a college football bowl game that will be played in Nassau for the second time this Christmas Eve. The government is in talks with several entertainment and promotion companies to get other major events and festivals to choose the Bahamas. The prime minister, Perry Christie, recently spoke about Cuba’s rise in prominence.

In addition to addressing the need for more major events and better air links for multi-destination travel, he spoke about the need to clean up the country’s street crime problem. “We are going to come to grips with the issues in this country… We have to solve the issues in this country." 

The announcement of the air link agreement between the U.S. and Cuba is a sign that normalization is closer than ever before. The Bahamas is taking steps to soften the blow, and their own air links with Cuba could actually put them in a great position to capitalize on the new interest in the formerly off-limits country. 

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