by Larry Smith
KIRKWALL, Orkney -- Visiting this remote group of islands off Scotland's northeast coast recently, I was struck by some remarkable similarities to the Bahamas.
Our small Loganair turboprop - similar to Bahamasair's inter-island aircraft - was delayed in Aberdeen for three hours, and several suitcases failed to arrive in Kirkwall until the following day. The Orcadians on their way home from Scotland took it all in stride, much as Bahamians are wont to do.
Loganair was founded in 1962 by a big construction company, and is the oldest airline in the UK continuously operated under the same name. It connects relatively isolated islands and communities in Scotland, Orkney and the Shetlands just as air taxi services link remote settlements in the Bahamas.
Kirkwall is Orkney's main town, an easy-going harbourside community of about 7,000 in a 70-island archipelago. With a total population of only 20,000, Orkney is similar in scale and character to Abaco and its cays, where some 15,000 people make a living from high-end tourism, fishing and farming.
Orkney welcomes somewhat more tourists - about 200,000 a year. But visitor satisfaction levels are just as high as they are in Abaco, which receives about 100,000 affluent tourists annually. The locals are as friendly and helpful as any Bahamian out islander.