Central Bank report: COVID-19 forces 60 percent drop in visitor arrivals in March

Central Bank report: COVID-19 forces 60 percent drop in visitor arrivals in March
The Central Bank of The Bahamas. (PHOTO: CBOB)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Total visitors arrivals fell by nearly 60 percent in March as COVID-19 fears brought international travel to a standstill.

The average hotel occupancy rate just under 42 percent, according to the Central Bank in its recently released monthly economic and financial development report for March.

The bank noted that data provided by the Ministry of Tourism showed that total visitor arrivals reduced by 59.7 percent in March, a reversal from a 5.9 percent growth during the same period in 2019.

“Underlying this outturn, the high value-added air segment fell by 62.5 per cent, a turnaround from the 9.5 per cent gain a year earlier. Similarly, the dominant sea component declined by 58.6per cent, vis-a-vis a 4.6 per cent increase last year,” the regulator said.

It further noted that a breakdown by major port of entry revealed broad based declines across the major markets.

“Total visitors to New Providence contracted markedly by 64.6 percent, contrasting with the 20.9 percent growth in the prior year, as both the sea and air components fell, by 66.7 percent and 60.2 percent, respectively,” the bank stated.

“Similarly, underpinned by reductions in both air (74.0 percent) and sea (65.9 percent) traffic, total arrivals to Grand Bahama decreased sharply by 66.9 percent, extending the 1.7 percent downturn recorded in the previous year. Likewise, visitors to the Family Islands reduced by 46 percent, exceeding the six percent falloff in 2019, amid respective declines in the air (68.9 percent) and sea (40.3 percent) segments.”

It was also noted that in March, the average hotel occupancy rate declined significantly to 41.8 per cent from 86.7 per cent the same period last year.

“The number of room nights sold contracted by 56.3 percent, while the average daily room rate (ADR) reduced by 15.5 percent to $300.20, resulting in a 59 percent falloff in room revenues,” the regulator said.

“Over the three-month period, the occupancy rate fell by 14.8 percentage points to 63.2 percent, as the number of room nights sold decreased by 21 percent. In addition, the ADR moved lower by 9.3 percent to $273.57, with room revenue declining by 28 percent.”

With the closure of the country’s borders in full effect, data provided by the Nassau Airport Development Company Limited (NAD) revealed that during the month of April, total international departures contracted to just 445, relative to the prior year’s 18.3 percent growth, to 160,275.

“In the previous year, the expansion was broad-based with U.S. and non-U.S bound departures strengthening by 21.3 percent and by 2.8 percent, respectively,” the bank added.

“Over the first four months of the year, outward bound traffic reduced by 33 percent, a turnaround from a 21 percent increase in the preceding year. By region, the dominant US component fell by 37.9 percent after growing by 23.1 percent last year. In addition, the non-U.S. international component declined by 33.2 percent, overturning the 10.4 percent gain in 2019.”

It was also noted that the vacation rental market has also taken a major hit with data provided by AirDNA for the month of April showing a 59.4 percent falloff in total room nights sold, underpinned by contractions in bookings for entire place listings and hotel comparable listings, of 60.1 percent and 52.1 percent, respectively.