|Private jets flock to TCI||| Print ||
|Thursday, 05 May 2011 12:03|
With arrivals more than doubling in the past five years, Provo Air Center has seen private aviation to the Turks and Caicos Islands booming.
“We have had more than 20-percent growth each year over the past five years,” explains Provo Air Center’s General Manager Deborah Aharon, noting that this included the last two years when the country overall has seen an economic slump.
This includes a record-breaking 113 planes landing Jan. 2, making Provo Air Center the busiest FBO in the world on that day, according to the flight support company Jeppesen Dataplan, which provides flight planning services to private and fractional aircraft worldwide.
With an average of five passengers per aircraft, the FBO is making a significant impact on the overall economy of the TCI.
Approximately 65 percent of the private aviation traffic is coming to the island for a planned stay-over vacation. The overwhelming majority is travelling to the ultra private resorts of Amanyara and Parrot Cay, with Grace Bay Club a very close third.
“Individuals who fly by private jet are generally looking for ultimate privacy, and we are happy to be able to offer them that here,” Aharon explains.
She credits the company’s level of service along with its location as one of the major reasons private air passengers keep coming back to the air center. “We need to be aware that the privacy we offer these guests is paramount to their return visits, and this is key to the success of the islands.”
With increased traffic come new faces, who bring new market share and revenue to the country.
“We have noticed increasing market growth for South America,” Aharon says, which consists mainly of medium sized, family-operated aircraft.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Aharon says private aviation has been on the rise as families look for the safest and most private way to travel. “We see many families travelling here on their own jet, with the father or both parents as the crew.”
The Provo Air Center has a large security team which ensures the safety of the aircraft as well as the privacy of the clients. The low crime rate and privacy offered in the TCI is one of the top reasons private jet owners keep coming here. Aharon says it is important to them to ensure it stays that way.
Fractional jet companies such as NetJets, CitationShares, BusinessJet Solutions and Flight Options account for around 40 percent of the planes which land at the Provo Air Center. These visit mainly during the high season, which runs from the end of October until mid May.
While last year last-minute trips kept the company running to keep up, this year planning ahead is setting the trend, indicating that people in the private jet bracket are confident of continued recovery, Aharon says.
Fuel stops make up the remaining 35 percent of the traffic that the service-oriented private air terminal received, a figure that surpasses most other Caribbean islands by 25 or 30 percent.
“Our owner, Lyndon Gardiner, has invested significantly into our fuel farm.” Provo Air Center has spent $1.5 million on the creation of a fuel farm that meets all industry standards.
“We spent a lot of time attracting flight operation companies to encourage their clients to come to us for their fuel stops,” Aharon explained. Fuel is apparently a sore subject around the regions these days, as Aharon says that Chevron’s Caribbean division has been struggling with numerous changes that have left other islands without fuel during critical periods.
After leaving Chevron two years ago, Aharon and Gardiner made plans to build a new fuel farm and assure the region that Provo Air Center would be positioned to take up the slack. Now one of the major fuel sources in the Caribbean, the TCI suffers less from the off-season slowdown than many other islands lacking the ability to make this kind of investment.
With a turnover time of just 15 minutes, Provo Air Center offers one of the quickest fuel stopovers in the Caribbean. Since fuel in the TCI is not the cheapest, quality service and location is what keeps pilots returning to TCI for their fuel.
“We are very concerned about the impact the new fuel tax and customs duty fee will have on that part of our business and the revenue is creates for the government,” Aharon said. She estimates the company could lose $4 million in business this year alone, costing the government hundreds of thousands in taxes.
She says the stopovers are important not only for the revenue they create directly, but also the indirect revenue created by the visits.
“Often times people extend their stop by having lunch on the island. Frequently we even see they enjoy it so much they decide to stay overnight or make the decision to come back for another vacation.”
The company is focused on continuing their efforts to attract more private aviation business to the Turks and Caicos. Recently elected president of the Caribbean FBO Alliance, Aharon is planning to travel with her CFBOA colleagues to Geneva, Switzerland, to host an exhibit at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition.
Flights direct from Europe are possible with private aircraft and represent a growing market for the Caribbean. Provo Air Center and its Caribbean colleagues are determined to capture more of it for the region. Aharon says she is very happy that the Tourist Board and local resorts, including Parrot Cay and Seven Stars, have joined the alliance in this effort.
Again with the support of the Tourist Board, PAC is also working on programs to attract more flight clubs to the TCI, especially focusing on the slower summer months. “Clearly,” says Aharon, “a good FBO can do a lot for an island economy.”
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