NASSAU -- Ask Greg Welpe what his favorite island group is and
chances are he'll say the Bahamas.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism chose Welpe, leisure sales
manager at High Tech Travel in Dallas, as its 1999 international
travel agent of the year.
Welpe and many others in the tourism industry were honored at
the Bahamas' fifth annual Cacique Awards ceremony held here.
Welpe, a travel agent since 1984, has actively sold the Bahamas
for the last three years. A graduate of the Bahamas Tourism
Institute program, he credited the referrals and sales generated by
that program as contributing factors in his winning the award.
According to Welpe, BTI specialists benefit from referrals and
regular updates given by the tourist board.
"Another great benefit is that potential clients can access me
from the Bahamas Web page as well as shopping, honeymoon, sailing
and dive information," he said.
Welpe said he was impressed by the manner in which Bahamian
officials handled news of Hurricane Floyd, with continual updates
about the damage and recovery process.
Last year, Welpe sent 100 visitors to the Bahamas -- 50 land
clients and 50 cruise passengers. So far this year, he has booked
200 rooms at Atlantis for a car dealership convention and a small
wedding party at Sandals Royal Bahamian.
Welpe visited Atlantis last November where he stayed in the
Royal Towers. He also has visited Eleuthera; Harbour Island;
Nassau; Paradise Island, and Disney Cruise Line's private island,
The biggest obstacle Welpe said he faces when selling the
Bahamas is lack of airlift from Dallas. He has to route clients
through Miami or Atlanta.
If nonstop scheduled or charter service were available, Welpe
said he could generate more Bahamas business.
"Travelers can fly nonstop to Hawaii or Cancun, Mexico, from
Dallas, but they have to change planes when they go to the
Bahamas," he said.
Dallas has not had charter flights to the Bahamas in 14 years,
according to Welpe.