Dominicans and visitors can expect to benefit from a reliable and comfortable mode of air transportation when Hummingbird Airlines come on stream later this year, Dominica Vibes. The airline is the project of Sam Raphael, owner of the award-winning Jungle Bay Resort in Dominica. I have stayed at this excellent eco-tourist resort on several occasions, on two memorable ones with contingents of 40 Vassar students. It is indeed a wonderful place.
Owned by Dominican hotelier, Sam Raphael, the 15-seater airline will provide an on-schedule charter service flying mainly mix cargo and passengers between the US Virgin Islands and Dominica from October/November, 2013.
“In light of all the aviation challenges that we’re having in Dominica, as a hotelier, I don’t think I have any other choice but to get into aviation, this is key to our tourism development, Mr Raphael announced on Saturday, 31st August.
Dominican and Caribbean travelers have been experiencing adverse effects from challenges in aviation specifically with LIAT.
In July of this year, LIAT upgraded its 20 year old fleet of Dash 8 aircraft with 12 ATR airplanes, a venture costing the airline US$100 million. However, they have been experiencing serious difficulties which many claim is as a result of bad management and customer service relations.
“At Jungle Bay, we’ve had quite a few cancellations, people who were on the way to Dominica and had to overnight in Antigua or St. Martin for a few days and had to turn around and we’ve had to refund, even people planning to come who had deposited money, we’ve had to turn-around and refund them,” Mr Raphael said.
He noted that although a small start, Hummingbird Air’s launching will help address these travel challenges.
Mr Raphael, who has been working on this aviation project for two years, said it is has been a very expensive, technical and bureaucratic venture dealing with the various jurisdictions across the Caribbean region.
He acknowledged that it’s going to take a lot of additional investment to grow the airline, but believes that “in the next few years you will see Hummingbird Air become part of Dominica connection”.
He is hopeful that Hummingbird Air will respond to the challenge of direct access to Dominica from faraway places and removing the need for overnight stops and loss of baggage.
“Sometimes as local people we can tolerate it because we are Caribbean people and sometimes we shrug it off,” he said, but visitors do not respond in the same way.
He said the feedback that they have been receiving from visitors at Jungle Bay is that they love Dominica but can’t come back or recommend it unless there is some reliable way of getting here.
“I think this is going to be the start of a turnaround for tourism if it works out well,” Mr Raphael said.
Hummingbird Air is a US registered airline, partly because Mr Raphael operates business there as well, he said it was “a business decision” to do so.
However, he noted that it has “strong ties to Dominica, it is Dominican owned and it certainly will be “seamless, reliable” and provide “good customer service”.
The airline will also be able to transport at least a ton of produce and so they will need “some good quality produce” from farmers. These include dasheen, ginger, cinnamon and cut flowers among others.
“I think it is going to be something that can benefit quite a number of Dominicans, both in their ability to travel and their ability to move produce…So Dominicans should look out and support their Hummingbird Air,” Mr Raphael said.
For the original report go to http://dominicavibes.dm/content/dominican-hotelier-announces-aviation-venture/