Determined to improve the connectivity to Saba, the Public Entity Saba has decided to hire an expert company to assist in achieving a higher and more affordable transportation capacity by air and ferry, and to draft a connectivity plan.
The Executive Council on January 9 approved a proposal of Commissioner Bruce Zagers to procure the services of Icasus, a consultancy company from the Netherlands which specializes in aviation and has experience working in the Dutch Caribbean.
Transportation to Saba, especially by air, is too expensive and the capacity is very limited. Winair flights are mostly full and it is difficult to get a seat and to get a ticket at a reasonable price. This keeps tourists from coming to Saba, while the residents are suffering too because they pay high prices for airline tickets and at times it is difficult to travel off island and getting back.
Also, the seats on Winair are limited on the flights that are shared with St. Eustatius. This is detrimental to the island’s economic and social development. The capacity on Winair flights is further restricted due to the number of seats that are often occupied for patients that need to go abroad for medical care.
Having sufficient airline seats to Saba at an affordable price is important for the development of tourism, also in view of the construction of more hotel rooms in the future, explained Commissioner Zagers. The price of tickets is one of the main determining factors for people who want to travel. Getting to St. Maarten is already expensive and coming to Saba will become a more attractive if the tickets become more affordable.
The connectivity plan that will be drafted within the next few months will also look at the possibilities to expand the number of destinations for visiting tourists, for example St. Barths, which is a market with a lot of potential. The possibilities of increasing airlift with other, smaller airlines such as Windward Express and SXM Airlines, and securing scheduled charter flights will be explored as well.
Icasus will provide support with the drafting of the connectivity plan, preparing a vision and arguments to arrange subsidized travel for Saba. Icasus will further provide support to improve the connectivity by sea, including digitalized processing of documents at the harbor. There will be a collection of data and information of main travel contributors, such as the Health Insurance Office ZVK and Dutch civil servants, to generate a larger interest for sustainable airlift in Saba’s interest.
Zagers said the connectivity plan will be used for talks with the different ministries in The Hague to lobby for subsidized transportation. He noted that the number of visitors went up considerably when travel was subsidized during the closure of the airport in September 2018. As a result of the subsidized ferry prices, the usually slowest part during the low season turned into one of the busiest months for Saba, which generated revenues for the island.
Ton Jansen of Icasus is expected to come to Saba in the last week of February for meetings with government and stakeholders. Jansen will meet with airlines and ferry operators that are operating from St. Maarten.