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Good year for tourism despite challenges

Despite a challenging year, performance in the tourism sector was impressive in 2010, headlined by an 18 percent increase in cruise arrivals compared to last year according to Director General for Tourism David Johnson.

Johnson toldGuardian Businessrecently that the ministry had braced for tough times given the global economic climate, and its proactive approach was a key factor in having a productive year.

“We anticipated that it would be a difficult year for tourism in the region as a whole and we took a very aggressive posture,”he said.”Some of the programs we initiated were successful and a good portion of our business hopefully will rebound in 2011.”

One of the campaigns Johnson deemed a success was the”Companion Fly Free”program, which he said provided a great boost since his launch. It produced such great results that other Caribbean countries tried to duplicate the campaign, but weren’t able to pull it off as effectively, according to Johnson.

“There’s already been some competition that copied our Companion Fly Free program but they weren’t able to deliver it as well as we did, and because of that it makes us hesitant on how soon we reveal our plans for 2011,”Johnson said.”We will be launching a major initiative next spring that will have a tremendous impact on tourism on the other islands outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama.”

Johnson said the tourism figures for 2010 will be available as early as February of next year, which will include arrivals by air and sea to Nassau and the Family Islands. The latest data compiled by the Ministry of Tourism revealed figures for the first 10 months of the year, during which air arrivals increased 4.1 percent compared to last year with nearly 45,000 additional visitors traveling to the country.

Grand Bahama experienced a 41 percent year-to-date increase in air arrivals, which could be attributed to the 55 percent rise in visitors coming by cruise ships. It was the largest growth for any island during that period, with Nassau seeing a 10.8 improvement in that category.

The Family Islands category grew in both monthly numbers and year-to-date numbers. Air arrivals were up by 36 percent for the month of October and 13.5 percent for the year-to-date period, while sea arrivals jumped by 37 percent for the month and 15 percent for the period. The increases translated to 14.9 percent more passengers traveling to the Family Islands during those 10 months of 2010, compared to the year before.

The Bahamas also recorded 5 million visitors for only the second time in history and it’s possible that a new record may have been reached once the final numbers are tallied, according to Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace. He also noted that total arrivals will be ahead of last year’s number by 14-15 percent and stopover tourists rose at least 4 percent.

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