Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Speaking at the Bahamas Business Outlook conference last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie said that performance levels in the tourism sector last year were “encouraging”, particularly in Grand Bahama, as the country experienced overall growth in its number one industry last year.
“In our primary business sector, overall tourism performance improved last year, most notably in air arrivals which had consistently declined over the preceding six-year period,” said Christie. “For the first 10 months of last year air arrivals grew 4.5 per cent over the same period in 2013 and a small contraction in sea arrivals netted an overall growth in arrivals of 3.5 per cent to 5.1 million visitors to The Bahamas.”
In Grand Bahama, the Prime Minister said that during the first 10 months of last year, the island experienced an overall growth rate of 38 per cent, which was marked by a 43 per cent increase in air arrivals, and a slight decline of 8 per cent in sea arrivals.
Gains, he said, were also made in the Family Islands, which experienced an overall 3 per cent growth in air arrivals and 9 per cent growth in sea arrivals in the first 10 months of the year.
Last year most of the Family Islands experienced positive growth in arrivals with Exuma leading the way with a 15 per cent increase in stopovers. Long Island followed at 11 per cent and San Salvador with a 6 per cent growth in stopovers.
He said, however, that recessionary conditions continue to be evident in Cat Island, Eleuthera and Andros, all of which continued to experience negative growth in visitor arrivals.
In New Providence, the Prime Minister said, growth has been “sluggish”, due mainly to the loss of room inventory with the closure for renovations of the Wyndham, Nassau Palm and Paradise Island Harbour Resort hotels, and the lack of new inventory available to compensate for these losses.
This was demonstrated by only a 2 per cent increase in air arrivals for the first 10 months of the year. Cruise arrivals increased by 3 per cent over the same period, netting an overall growth of 2.3 per cent for New Providence.
“Tourism becomes a fully functioning economic engine only with proper calibration of its four key drivers of airlift, cruise, product and events with stimulation of the marketplace. Some drivers such as airlift and cruise can be influenced to produce more immediate results from stimulation while others such as hotel developments require anywhere from 12-24 months lead time before any economic activity even begins.”
He also spoke of some of the discussions the government is having with stakeholders in the cruise business.
“The combination cruise-and-stay package has the potential to boost room nights sold to 125,000 this year, from just under 50,000 in 2014, and to provide new employment in Grand Bahama for an additional 300-600 persons.”
As it relates to airlift, Christie said that the government and its partners in the tourism industry have spent “considerable” time in identifying the right target markets that can produce incremental visitor traffic from air seats into The Bahamas in tandem with growth of hotel room inventory.
“As a result, air seat capacity to Nassau/Paradise Island in 2014 increased by 5 per cent compared to 2013 and the Ministry of Tourism, in close collaboration with industry partners, has taken steps to secure the incremental nonstop air seat capacity needed to accommodate the new rooms coming on stream at Baha Mar in 2015,” he said.
Grand Bahama Island experienced a significant increase in stopover arrivals due to increases in nonstop flights from several Canadian gateways by Sunwing Airlines, Bahamasair/Xtra Airways Spring/Summer flights from several US cities, Delta Air Lines’ increased frequencies from once a week to daily service from Atlanta and Silver Airways daily service from South Florida gateways.
In the Family Islands, Air Canada inaugurated weekly service in May 2014 from Montreal to San Salvador. In addition, Christie said that the government would be embarking upon a programme to upgrade airports throughout the Family Island at a cost of more than $200 million.