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Features - Jan 2017



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Award-winning Bahamas

Award-winning Bahamas

Bahamas tourism is a world-beater, and has the international accolades to prove it

The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 1, 2017
January 1, 2017
Staff Writer

The Bahamas prides itself on the hospitality of its people, the vibrancy of its culture and the exceptional natural beauty of its many islands. But even when you know you are good at something, it is still nice to be told every now and then. From best luxury resort to outstanding promotional campaign, The Bahamas has amassed a trophy cabinet of tourism awards over recent years that helps justify the sector’s continued confidence.

The tourism sector is the biggest contributor to the national gross domestic product, accounting for around 50 per cent of the jurisdiction’s economic activity and worth an estimated $2.3 billion, according to the Ministry of Tourism (MOT). The government’s most recent figures put overall air arrivals as registering an increase of 2.2 per cent during the first quarter of 2016, with 10,000 more visitors coming to The Bahamas from January to March than the same period last year. In all, more than 781,000 visitors came to the destination by air in the first two quarters of 2016. And that’s not including cruise passengers. In the MOT’s 2016 year-to-date figures as of June, nearly 2.5 million ship passengers had docked around the archipelago, marking a 1.7 per cent increase on the same period in 2015.

Of course, this doesn’t happen simply by accident. No matter how beautiful your beaches and tasty your traditional dishes, if no-one knows about it, then hotel beds will go empty. There is a committed and consistent marketing push behind the sector’s success, driving up visitor arrivals, building on past success and tapping new markets.

The Ministry of Tourism is at the forefront of getting the word out there, attending trade shows and forums, creating corporate partnerships and running targeted campaigns. For The Bahamas to compete in this crowded marketplace and maintain the current growth trajectory, it has to keep a high profile. One way to do that is to scoop awards.

“Particularly in the luxury market, we have great competitors in the region. Almost every island would qualify for an award so it is a testament to the hard work and commitment of everyone in the tourism industry in The Bahamas when we get singled out for an accolade,” says director general in the Ministry of Tourism Joy Jibrilu. “Awards help spur us on as an industry to do more and become even better recognized internationally.”

World travel market
One of the biggest international events of the tourism industry calendar is the annual World Travel Awards (WTA). Now in its 24th year, the WTA was founded in 1993 to “recognize, acknowledge and reward excellence in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry worldwide” and is widely regarded as the hallmark of quality for the sector. The Bahamas is regularly nominated in several categories, everything from leading dive destination to number one cruise port to most romantic vacation spot.

All in all, The Bahamas has scooped nine awards in the event’s history, with the Ministry of Tourism being named the Caribbean’s Leading Tourist and Convention Bureau three times. In 2015, the jurisdiction picked up the gongs for the Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Island Destination and the World’s Leading Wedding Destination. That year, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe was also named the Caribbean’s Leading Travel Personality.

“In the last 50 years we have built our nation based on the income of tourism. It is how we feed our people, how we educate our people and how we provide health care,” says Wilchcombe. “We are looking to tap new markets such as in the Middle East and Asia and I have no doubt that internationally acclaimed awards such as the World Travel Awards will help us in those markets and drive more business to The Bahamas.”

In 2016 and for the second time running, The Bahamas was named the Caribbean’s Leading Luxury Island Destination. “Winning this award for a consecutive year, especially in such a competitive market, means that we are doing something right,” says Jibrilu. “This stamp of approval from the World Travel Awards says a lot.”

On picking up the award, GiovanniGrant,generalmanager of multi-destinations at The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, said: “This underlines our view that The Bahamas literally means luxury. You can have a different experience on every island and it really highlights the depth of the high-end tourism product that we have to offer, from the One&Only resort to Albany.”

Award-winning resorts
As Grant alludes, it is the hotels and resorts within the destination’s tourism offering that make it such an exceptional proposition. And the number of accolades the top Bahamian resorts have acquired is dizzying. Atlantis Paradise Island, Sandals Emerald Bay Exuma, Tiamo Resort and Musha Cay all picked up WTA awards last year. All in all, Sandals Resorts International, which operates two hotels in The Bahamas, picked up 15 WTA awards at the Caribbean & North America Gala Ceremony held in September last year.

Also awarded within Sandals Resorts International’s brand was its philanthropic arm, the Sandals Foundation, which received the special honour of Outstanding Contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility Projects for its commitment to making a positive impact in the region through education, environment and community. Sandals Resorts also bagged the prestigious Hotel & Resort Operator of the Year award at the 2016 TTG Travel Awards, held at the Lyceum Theatre in London September last year.

These individual success stories within the destination’s tourism product show the breadth and depth of the offering. This is underscored by this year’s Travvy Awards, where The Bahamas is nominated for Best Gaming Destination (International), Best Honeymoon Destination (Caribbean/ Bahamas), Best Wedding Destination (Caribbean/Bahamas), and Best Tourism Board (Caribbean/Bahamas). The awards, presented by travAlliancemedia, aim to recognize outstanding tourism industry professionals including travel companies, travel products and destinations, voted for by international travel agents. “It’s an honour for The Bahamas to be recognized in such a positive way with these nominations, particularly by those who visit our shores and know us best, that is our travel agents and guests,” says Minister Wilchcombe.

The nominations follow several successful promotional events including the “16 island, 16 weddings, one priceless day” event, which was an award-winning campaign by the MOT where couples from targeted markets entered lotteries to win weddings in The Bahamas.

Cultural export
Infrastructure and service is one thing, but The Bahamas also has another string to its bow: culture. Midway through last year, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism officials travelled to Berlin to attend the ITB Berlin Trade Show–the world’s largest travel trade show–and the Golden City Gate Awards. The annual awards cover all types of tourism campaigns and initiatives. In 2016, The Bahamas placed second for “Funky Nassau” in the category of Music Clips, and Music Voyager’s Heartbeats of The Bahamas in the category of TV and magazine programmes.

“There are hundreds of countries who vie for them, so to receive these international tourism awards is a wonderful achievement for the islands of The Bahamas,” says deputy director general for tourism, Tommy Thompson, who received the awards on behalf of The Bahamas.

Music Voyager, a 30-minute travel and lifestyle TV series, took an in-depth look into Bahamian culture and highlighted indigenous Bahamian music such as rake n’ scrape and Junkanoo. Millions of viewers in some 120 countries watched the Music Voyager Bahamas series, which began broadcasting in 2015. “The two categories we were showcased in featured the culture and music of The Bahamas, and in this particular television show, we have been getting a buzz about the uniqueness of our islands and our music,” says Thompson.

Jibrilu adds: “To know that we are being recognized for our music means that people are starting to take great notice of our culture. It has opened a window for the world to see The Bahamas. All Bahamians should be proud of these awards.”

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