US passport requirement and a sluggish US economy do not deter Bahamas development


Nassau, The Bahamas (eTN) – Numbers are improving in The Bahamas, despite the effects of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requiring US travelers to present their passport on their return. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, The Bahamas suffered a seven percent drop in arrivals in the first seven months of 2007, but expected recovery in the last months of 2007 as refurbished hotels reopen.

At the Caribbean Hotel Association Marketplace held in Nassau January 13-15, 2008, tourism authorities confirm developments are mushrooming across the island. “Rooms on Paradise Island have almost doubled with the addition of several new properties inclusive of the recently-opened Cove and Reef condo resorts,” said Tourism and Aviation Minister Neko Grant.

He added, “New management at Lynden Pindling International Airport has commenced renovations to our principal gateway. The new expanded airport will be constructed over three phases and will be completed in 2012,” thus increasing traffic from 1.6 million in 2007.

In a bid to recover from the slight dip after the passport rule kicked in, The Bahamas will soon launch a very aggressive tourism ad campaign, stressed over a lingering concern over the sluggish US economy, which reflects the island’s national economic strength. Tourism stakeholders believe the Americans will still travel; but price options should be presented to their biggest market attractively. “We’re doing everything in our capacity to ensure this winter will mitigate the previous circumstances,” said Vernice Walkine, director general from the Ministry of Tourism.

“The numbers have established. To shore up European numbers, we’ve approached the German market. Europe and Canada have responded very well, with healthy increases forecast in 2008,” said Ellison Thompson, deputy-director general from the Ministry of Tourism.

On growing inventory on the island, Grant said, “The government has given the billion dollar Albany Project at South Ocean the green light, which will transform the southwest area of New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island, a number of projects are currently underway inclusive of major developments on the western end of the island.

The Bahamas is in the early phases of another billion dollar reconstruction and revitalization effort of the Cable Beach area, poised for grand scale development in south western Nassau. In the heart of Nassau, the downtown area will be completely upgraded, reflecting the ambience and character of Old Nassau. Right next to the shopping center, the Prince George Dock will be expanded and improved, with dredging of the harbor to enable a wider turning basin to accommodate the Freedom class of cruise ship by 2009. This will signify the start of an entire harbor front renovation and improvement, according to Walkine.

In 2007, the tourism ministry commenced laying the foundation for Community-based tourism in the islands of The Bahamas. Aspects of which were highlighted during the recent African Diaspora Heritage Trail Conference held to further develop heritage and cultural tourism attractions around The Bahamas.

The government is committed to the development of environmentally-sensitive, low density resorts in the Out Islands. Major infrastructural improvements are planned for a number of Out Islands, including airport expansion and ferry dock expansion to facilitate inter-island movement.

Tourism will remain as one of the major pillars of economic and social development in the Bahamas. The industry drives the island to promote the financial services sector, e-business opportunities along with agriculture and fisheries. On top, the tourism office welcomes the introduction of the tourism satellite account which provides a common, internationally-accepted standard of classifying tourism for a country’s economy by component sector. The satellite account has facilitated more efficient national planning for developing tourism overseas for the Bahamas.