Tourism chief says industry numbers ‘up’

Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar. (Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism)

Family Islands projected to hit record 300K visitors

New Providence is currently enjoying a seven per cent increase in air arrivals for the year to date, despite significant reductions in both air and sea arrivals throughout the entire Bahamas last year, according to Minister of Tourism Dioniso D’Aguliar.

During the mid-year budget debate D’Aguliar told Parliament that the local tourism industry is “hot”.

He attributed current increases in tourist arrivals to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar resort and “loyal second home owners” in the Family Islands – particularly Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma.

However, D’Aguliar noted that tourit arrivals in The Bahamas dropped from 6.27 million in 2016 to 6.14 million in 2017. He attributed the two-point drop to the passage of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and, to a lesser extent, Hurricane Joaquin.

Overall stop-over visitors, according to the minister, also decreased by four per cent in 2017 and in Grand Bahama, this number decreased from 126,000 in 2016 to 71,000 in 2017.

D’Aguliar blamed the decline on the closure of the Our Lucaya Resort.

Sea arrivals also decreased by 1.5 per cent, he revealed.

Nassau air arrivals also saw a decrease of 3.6 per cent in 2017, caused by reduced room inventory, according to the minister.

This, as the Coral Towers at Atlantis was closed for almost the entire year for renovations as well as RIU on Paradise Island.

Sea arrivals produced 4.8 million visitors in 2017 down 1.5 per cent from the 4.87 million that came by seas in 2016.

As for good news, D’Agulair said, the Family Islands enjoyed robust growth in tourist arrivals in 2017.

“Abaco saw its tourist arrivals increase by 10.4 per cent in 2017 – from 994,000 to 140,00, with the Marsh Harbour airport surpassing the Freeport airport to become the second busiest airport in the Commonwealth,” he said.

“Also worth mentioning is Exuma, which saw its tourist arrivals increase by 21.7 per cent from 50,000 to 61,000 and Eleuthera, which saw its tourist arrivals increase by 24. 4 per cent from 39,000 to 49,000. The growth in arrivals form the Family Islands is attributed to the very high repeat-visitor rate of approximately 66 per cent. This high repeat-visitor rate is anchored by second home owners who are extremely loyal to their destination. We are expecting the number of persons visiting the family islands to exceed 300,000 for the very first time in the history of this country in 2018.”

The Free Town Member of Parliament also told the House of Assembly that for the first month on 2018, air arrivals were up by seven per cent in New Providence and sea arrivals were up by a “respectable” 4.6 per cent. In Grand Bahama, however, air arrivals were down 18 per cent.”

“But it was Nassau/Paradise Island that led the way with a 7.9 per cent increase in air arrivals in January 2018 primarily caused by the coming on stream of the Baha Mar property,” he said.

“I am particularly delighted how well the 1,800-room Grand Hyatt and the 3,000-room SLS are preforming at Baha Mar and I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the Rosewood in May 2018. As I speak to visitors at the property, they are impressed by the quality of the facility but more importantly, they are impressed with the service. Over 4,000 Bahamians are employed at that property and that number is soon to rise to 5,000 and I am overjoyed to see the property finally performing.”