As The Islands Of The Bahamas continues to promote its ‘Fly Away’ campaign, many private aviators are looking to flock to the destination.
The archipelago was heavily promoted at the 45th annual Sun ‘n Fun International Fly In & Expo, April 1-7 in Lakeland, Florida.
The Expo, which is the second largest aviation show in the United States, attracts some 200,000 pilots, aviation enthusiasts and media professionals.
The Bahamas is no stranger to Sun ‘n Fun as officials of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) has enjoyed a relationship with the expo’s organizers for over 20 years.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Honorable Dionisio D’Aguilar, who traveled to the event for the first time, said the partnership with Sun ‘n Fun is a “natural fit.”
“This is a natural spot for the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation as Sun ‘n Fun attracts private pilots throughout Florida, who visit The Bahamas. We have 60 airports, 20 of which are ports of entry, that pilots can fly into and truly embody – island hopping. It’s an easy sell and they are really fascinated about coming to The Bahamas,” he said.
While at the event, the Minister participated in a number of media promotions including two radio broadcasts on SnF 1510 AM and a television appearance on Florida Aviation Network.
Minister also called on executives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and served as host and keynote speaker at a Bahamas night appreciation dinner, which was attended by members of the press, executives of Sun ‘n Fun International, Bahamas Flying Ambassadors and private pilots.
The Bahamas Consul General in Miami, Mrs. Linda Mackey said she learned a lot from the expo.
“It’s been very good for many people who have not visited The Bahamas,” she said. “Our proximity makes it very easy and the excitement is certainly growing.
“It’s a big industry and last year The Bahamas experienced its best year ever (in tourism) and so we are excited about the potential here.”
Deputy Director General of Tourism, Ellison ‘Tommy’ Thompson also participated in a radio broadcast as well as the MOTA Flying to The Bahamas seminars.
More than 200 private pilots registered and attended the seminars, with plans to fly into The Bahamas. Leonard Stuart, District Manager Sports and Verticals, MOTA and Mike Zidziunas, Bahamas Flying Ambassador conducted the seminars.
“Private aviation is actually a $300 million business for The Islands of The Bahamas, with Florida being our number one market,” noted Mr. Thompson.
“A number of aviators have flown over land but never over water and so we have shown them how easy it is to get to The Bahamas and assist them with the necessary required paperwork. We show them the variety of accommodations on the different islands and all the other activities you can do in The Bahamas,” he said.
“These (Bahamas Flying Ambassadors) are a carefully selected group of seasoned private pilots who are skilled and knowledgeable about flying into and around The Bahamas and who lead fly outs to The Bahamas for novice pilots who are afraid of flying over water,” he said.
A number of Bahamas Flying Ambassadors who attended the event said The Islands Of The Bahamas is an easy sell.
“There are so many great things about The Bahamas. But, what I impress upon people who want to fly there is, the best things are not its beautiful beaches, sand or resorts but really its people,” said Mike Z. “The Bahamas has so much to do. You have everything from Las Vegas style casinos to quaint fishing camps.”
Steveo, a popular Youtube pilot and the youngest Bahamas Flying ambassador, shared similar sentiments.
“I’ve been flying into The Bahamas most of my career and I love flying there. I love the culture and just to be able to showcase flying into The Bahamas and the beauty of the islands is really a joy,” he said.
As a climax to Sun ‘n Fun, on April 7, some 40 private pilots are expected to Fly Out to The Bahamas, where they will visit Grand Bahama, Cat Island and Treasue Cay, Abaco, April 7-10, 2019.
Meanwhile, President of Sun ‘n Fun John “Lites” Leenhouts said he sees the partnership with the BMOTA continuing to flourish for many years to come.
“We have this partnership where we are building this image in the minds of aviators in America that The Bahamas is a great chain of beautiful islands. Our goal here is to continue to build an aviation bridge between Florida and The Bahamas that has constant aircraft. We want to know all there is to know about The Bahamas to make the experience enjoyable and easy for all of our aviation friends,” he noted.
BMOTA officials also plan to promote The Islands Of The Bahamas at the EAA Air Venture Oshkosh Conference; the largest aviation expo in the world, in Wisconsin in July.