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Visitor arrivals show upward trend for 2018

Despite underperforming in 2017, the tourism sector is registering an upward trend for 2018, with figures for the first month of the year showing a seven percent increase in visitor air arrivals and a 4.6 percent increase in arrivals by sea, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed in Parliament yesterday.

“Mister Speaker I’m delighted to report that our tourism sector is hot,” D’Aguilar said during his contribution to the mid-year budget debate yesterday.

“Everywhere I go restaurants are busy and those in the tour business are stating that there is a renewed interest in this destination.”

D’Aguilar also touted an increase in overall visitor arrivals for Grand Bahama, despite a significant decline in stopover visitors due to the closure of the Grand Lucayan resort.

“Even in Grand Bahama there is some good news, air arrivals were down 18 percent, but the destination experienced a 44 percent increase in overall arrivals with the return of the Royal Caribbean Cruise service to the island,” he said.

“But it was Nassau/Paradise Island that led the way with a 7.9 percent increase in air arrivals in (the first part of) 2018, primarily caused by the coming on stream of the Baha Mar property.”

The positive trend in tourist arrival numbers comes after The Bahamas experienced a 2.1 percent decline in visitors in 2017, receiving 6.14 million tourists, which is 129,000 less than the 6.27 million tourists who visited the country in 2016.

According to D’Aguilar the decline is attributed to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and to a lesser extent Hurricane Joaquin the year before; both of which resulted in significant impacts to hotel products on multiple islands and temporary closures to hotels in major tourism centers including Nassau, Paradise Island, Bimini and Grand Bahama.

The industry had similar setbacks from Hurricane Irma last year, which devastated the southern islands of Ragged Island, Inagua, Mayaguana, Acklins and Crooked Island, he said.

D’Aguilar explained that just 22 percent of stopover visitors came to the country by air, with air arrivals into Nassau having decreased by 36,000 or 3.6 percent in 2017.

“Naturally we prefer the stopover visitors because they spend about 20 times more in the local economy than a cruise passenger. But sadly the stopover visitors to The Bahamas decreased by 66,000 or 4 percent in 2017,” he said.

“That entire decline can be attributed to the continued closure of the Grand Lucayan hotel in Freeport, since the number of stopover visitors to Grand Bahama declined from 126,000 in 2016 to 71,000 in 2017.”

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