NASSAU, The Bahamas – – Propelled by the most successful promotion in its history, arrivals in 2010 to The Islands Of The Bahamas jumped nearly 15 percent above 2009 figures, landing just north of five million total visitors – only the second time the islands-nation has achieved this milestone. Guided by data showing that air arrivals alone were up 4.1 percent in the first 10 months of the year – an increase of almost 45,000 visitors over 2009 – The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation (BMOTA) was able to identify Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010, as the date on which it would welcome its 5 millionth visitor for the year. The Ministry of Tourism feted Grand Bahama Island visitor Randy Holmes of Vancouver, British Columbia, who received the honor and an all-expenses-paid opportunity to return to the Bahamas island of his choice.
In 2010, cruise arrivals grew by more than 18 percent and the ever-important stopover numbers have grown an estimated 5 percent, signaling that Americans are interested in traveling again and willing to spend on memorable experiences. Those record-breaking figures are attributed to the highly successful “Free Companion Airfare” offer, designed by the BMOTA and accounting for nearly 300,000 room nights sold. Other developments that attracted travelers include the reopening of the legendary Bimini Big Game Club, Pelican Bay Hotel’s new conference facility on Grand Bahama Island, and the opening of upscale Sandals Great Exuma.
The BMOTA digested the statistics with an outlook shaped somewhat by a look back:
“In stopovers, we still need to get back to 2008 numbers to begin to feel comfortable with our achievements. Given the level of unemployment in our largest markets in both the United States and Europe, 2011 will continue to be a challenge even though we expect continued growth in both cruise passengers and stopovers,” said Minister of Tourism, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.
Healthy arrival numbers are an important source of business opportunities for Bahamians, helping to attract large-scale investments such as the 1,000-acre Baha Mar resort complex scheduled to open in Nassau’s Cable Beach community in 2013. Development is the major theme for the BMOTA in 2011 as the destination celebrates the renaissance of Nassau/Paradise Island, including the revitalization of its downtown area; a new airport set to open in March 2011; new deep water harbor; new Straw Market and a public green space on the location of the current straw market site; the new Gateway Highway and a connecting road system with the replacement of tens of thousands of feet of new water, power and communications infrastructure underneath; and a new national stadium and associated sporting facilities.
With Nassau/Paradise Island well positioned to welcome millions of travelers in 2011, the BMOTA is focusing its efforts on the 15 other key islands of The Bahamas, including The Exuma Islands, The Abacos, Andros and Cat Island, often referred to as “The Out Islands” or “The Family Islands.” With a “Back to the Islands” – approach, the BMOTA is working closely with other government agencies in the commonwealth to focus on further increasing government services to attract more Bahamians and expand the available workforce on these islands. The BMOTA is also acquiring software and strengthening the transportation and electronic reservation infrastructure to allow international visitors to experience the many beachside vacation homes, villas and cottages on the various islands beyond Nassau.
Summing up long-term goals, Minister Vanderpool-Wallace explained, “These developments also expand the tourism offerings in the Bahamas in a way that has been long contemplated. Cruise lines have discovered the multiple destinations of The Bahamas and those different experiences are easily accessible by ship. Once we put the sea, air and electronic infrastructure in place, The Bahamas will also be accessible for multi-island vacations by land based visitors and more importantly become attractive to those long stay vacationers.”