New Manager at the airport in North Eleuthera (ELH), Mr. Patrick Kemp, recently gave an update on some of the short term plans for the location for the new season and shared some insight on returning home as a young professional, after being away from the island for more than a decade. Patrick arrived back home in Eleuthera in March of this year, and took part in an intensive training program in preparation to formally take up his new posting as the Airport Manager in North Eleuthera on May 28th, 2018.
“This place is such an interesting hub, because we have transits coming in from all over. Just a few weeks ago, an aircraft arrived from Switzerland. This place is a house to so many different walks of life and there are differing opinions on how the airport should progress. Some people say, ‘You all need to upgrade this place, it does not meet what you do’, and others that say, ‘We love it just the way it is’,” said Mr. Kemp.
“However, in the interim, we are trying to bring it up to a certain standard,” he added, and continued, “We are about to put on a departure lounge that will be able to seat about 120 people, and will include a snack shop as well. It is anticipated that the lounge will take three months to construct, at a cost of $175,000. The new airport will take about two and a half plus years to construct, at a cost of about $40 million, and we are currently scheduled to break ground on that sometime next year. We are hoping to have the new lounge completed by December of this year, as a ‘band aid fix’ to alleviate the stress of the high traffic expected during the upcoming season.
“Expanded airlift is expected to begin in November with a new American Airlines flight coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina. We also have a new domestic airline that is expected to begin coming in here on November 1st, called Bahamian Airways, flying between North Eleuthera and New Providence. With that being the case, we have a whole lot to do. So, we are trying to relieve the congestion of all that’s going on. It may not happen in time, as you are dealing with a government department. However, the floor plan has already been submitted to head office, and construction plans are being completed for submission to the Ministry of Works for final approval. Then construction can commence. This year is projected to be even busier than the previous one, especially with new properties in the pipeline, both on the mainland – like the yacht club said to be opening in Hatchet Bay, and a couple projects in Harbour Island. So, with all of this going on, we are expecting an influx of visitors this season.”
Describing the current traffic at ELH, Mr. Kemp shared, “Silver Airways, during this slow period has still been operating flights into North Eleuthera every day, with one flight on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and two flights per day on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. During the peak season, Silver Airways will return to their five flights per day schedule into North Eleuthera. American Airlines and Delta are also expected to resume their regularly scheduled daily flights into North Eleuthera beginning in November, with American Airlines having also added the new direct flight out of Charlotte. Domestic airlines, Pineappleair and Southernair, are continuing with their daily three flights schedule out of New Providence as well.
“We have been competing with Abaco for that second place spot in the country’s airport hubs in arrivals and departures, and there are certain months when we’ve actually surpassed Abaco.”
Mr. Kemp, who originally hails from Current Island, has lived in New Providence since graduating high school in Spanish Wells, and currently resides in Lower Bogue since his return. His most recent post in New Providence was as a lecturer with Galilee College, and he is also the owner of PS Custom Designs and Printing, which is still a going concern in Nassau. “This has been different,” he said of his new position. “I have always worked in the private sector. This is my first government position, so, coming in it’s a lot different. In the private sector, it’s go, go, go – it has to get done. What I’m finding in government is, because of the bureaucracy and process/’red tape’, it takes a little bit longer. However, we understand there is a great need here at the airport, so, we are working on that. We are trying to get some stuff done. In this position you have to be versatile. It pulls you in many directions, and it’s good. I guess the first part of it was getting past understanding the role, managing expectations versus reality, and with that being the case, the adjustment period is still ongoing. For example getting accustomed to always being on call 24/7 in the case of an emergency.”
When asked about how he now feels about the decision to return home, and advice for others wanting to do the same, Mr. Kemp smiled, “I wish I had come home a bit earlier. I have no intention of returning to New Providence to live, so I’m now settled back home. I’ve spent a number of years in Nassau, however, all of my immediate family have been here in Eleuthera, so there is nothing like being back home, and being able to spend real time with family once again.
“I’ve had conversations with other people who have also relocated back home, and they all say it’s so much better being back home than being in Nassau or in the U.S. The grass is not greener. You would assume that in coming home, the opportunities would be fewer, but that is not the case, because, there are both employment and entrepreneurial opportunities – plus, the additional benefits of being so much more relaxed, transportation is easier – literally cruising around compared to the rat race in Nassau. The pace of life is so different, so much less stress, the fellowship, the family – it’s priceless.”