NASSAU, The Bahamas
June 6, 2019
By Matt Maura
New and exciting marketing campaigns that have allowed The Bahamas to break into new markets, hard work, the ingenuity and creativity of the staff at The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, and a “robust” U.S. economy are among four key reasons why The Bahamas is experiencing its incredible growth in Tourism arrivals.
Delivering his contribution to the 2019-2020 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Thursday (June 6), Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, hailed the “hard work and creativity and ingenuity of the 350-plus employees who work at the Ministry of Tourism” as primary among the reasons for the success.
“First and foremost, I think that the staff and leadership at the Ministry of Tourism are doing a phenomenal job,” Minister D’Aguilar said. “Under the joint leadership of the Director-General of Tourism, Mrs. Joy Jibrilu and the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Charles Albury and their respective teams, they have been — simply put — a ‘Dream Team.’ I have allowed them to use their vast knowledge and experience to take risks, go with their gut, and just get on with the business of growing our tourism arrivals.”
Minister D’Aguilar said the team at the Ministry of Tourism has launched “new, edgy and sexy” marketing campaigns, broken into new markets like China and Latin America, and has developed an understanding that the internet is where most of the foreign visitors do their research and book their holidays, which has allowed them to stay focused on that medium “to spend most of our scarce marketing dollars.”
He said the second reason for the incredible growth in the tourism numbers is the robustness of the American economy which enjoyed growth in its GDP, declines in unemployment numbers and increases in incomes – particularly disposable income in the United States in 2018 that led to more of its citizens feeling that a Caribbean vacation – especially one to The Bahamas – was now within reach.
Minister D’Aguilar said 8 out of every 10 — or 80% — of stopover visitors to The Bahamas hailed from the United States.
Minister D’Aguilar said the U.S. enjoyed GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth of 2.9% in 2018 up from 2.2% in 2017 and the best growth numbers since 2015. That translated into an unemployment rate of 3.9% at the end of 2018, down from 4.1% in 2017, down from 4.7% in 2016, down from 5% in 2015. Just last month, in April 2019, the US unemployment rate hit 3.6% that is the lowest rate in 50 years. Incomes also rose with the average per capita disposable income reaching $48,000 in 2018, up from $46,000 in 2017 up from $44,000 in 2016.
“So, with unemployment at record lows, incomes rising, the stock market reaching record highs, the Americans have consequently felt that a Caribbean vacation is now within their reach and thereby wanted to travel to The Bahamas in unprecedented numbers.”
Minister D’Aguilar said the third reason for the “incredible growth in the tourism numbers” was the completion of the opening of Baha Mar in 2018 and a renewed interest in the Family Islands brought about by an Island-by-Island marketing campaign spotlighting the country’s 16 different destinations.
“There is no doubt that the opening of Baha Mar with its 2,300-plus rooms has significantly impacted the economy of New Providence and by extension the economy of the entire Bahamas. There was a fear that the opening of Baha Mar would have caused a cannibalization of our existing hotels with all of our foreign visitors simply shifting from the older properties to the brand new Baha Mar causing no noticeable uptick in overall foreign visitor arrivals.
“Thankfully, given the previously mentioned incredible stopover numbers and the creative and ingenious marketing strategy of the Ministry of Tourism, our fears of cannibalization have not materialized.”
The fourth reason for the increase in the tourism numbers in 2018, the Tourism and Aviation Minister reported, was tragically caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in October 2017.
“Those Monster storms caused widespread damage to a number of islands in the southern and eastern Caribbean allowing visitors that would have typically visited those islands to divert to The Bahamas. I remember speaking to a marina operator recently and he commented that business in 2018 was the best it had even been! Persons who had historically gone south with their yachts were giving The Bahamas a second look and falling back in love with the beauty and diversity that The Bahamas has to offer with its wide array of gorgeous islands and cays.”
Minister D’Aguilar said in 2018, the number of room nights sold in New Providence increased by a whopping 28% — a growth rate not experienced in ten years.
“But what is truly amazing is that even though the number of room nights sold increased by 28%, there was no degradation in the average daily room rate. That was not luck. That took, once again, creativity and ingenuity. In fact, quite remarkably the average daily room rate in New Providence managed to increase by 4.7% despite the vast increase in the supply of rooms.
“That can only be attributed to the combined efforts of the marketing teams from the respective hotel properties, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board and the Ministry of Tourism who, combined, spent well over $60 million keeping the Islands of The Bahamas and specifically, Nassau, front and center in the minds of the travelling public.
“In addition, even though Nassau received 188,000 or 19.2% more stopover visitors in 2018 versus 2017, many of the Family Islands recorded remarkable increases as well. Abaco, our second largest destination for stopover visitors recorded 16,000 or 15.2% more in 2018 versus 2017. Eleuthera recorded 13,000 or 26.8% more in 2018 versus 2017.
“Overall, the Family Islands received almost 390,000 foreign visitors in 2018 — another record — up from 356,000 in 2017 and based upon our preliminary numbers for 2019, and barring no weather calamities, we expect to burst through the 400,000 barrier this year as our foreign visitors, in more and more numbers, discover the beauty of our Family Islands and return time and time again telling more and more of their friends along the way.”