Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019
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The tourists keep coming

Stopover visitors are the heart of the Bahamian tourism economy. The bulk of these people come from North America. When they come in large numbers and spend lots of money, our economy grows and Bahamians live more prosperous lives.

It is projected that we grew by 2.3 percent last year, and that we will grow by 2.1 percent this year. Success in the United States and Canada has fueled a resurgence in Bahamian tourism.

New data from the country’s main airport details last year’s success. Passenger traffic at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) increased by 11 percent in 2018, the highest year-over-year increase and the largest number of passengers recorded at the airport since 2007. There were a record 3.7 million passengers.

The United States market increased by 13 percent, international passengers increased by 17 percent, and domestic passengers increased by two percent.

The strong results continued into 2019, with U.S. passenger numbers up 21 percent and other international passengers up 17 percent on January 2019.

“Preliminary results for the first half of February 2019 indicate a similar trend,” noted a release from the airport company.

Overall air arrivals to The Bahamas increased by 16.7 percent, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

When the tourists are coming, investment is also attracted to our shores.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis spoke at the Bahamas Business Outlook in January. He noted that since mid-2017, his government approved $3.7 billion in foreign investments.

“Many of these projects, once approved, immediately contracted Bahamian firms for legal, accounting, project management, engineering, environmental, architectural, consulting and other professional services,” he said.

“This success in FDI is due in part to: new, resurrected and expanded resort projects on Eleuthera, Abaco, Andros, New Providence and Grand Bahama.”

If the United States and China resolve their trade dispute, or at least deescalate, on March 1, the global economy should continue to grow. For us that would hopefully mean these bullish air arrivals numbers continuing.

The Bahamas faced a tough decade after the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. There were years of recession; a mortgage crisis; the unemployment rate went to double digits, where it remains to this day; government debt increased.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) captured the effect in its quarterly report at the end of 2018. The average growth rate of The Bahamas during the past decade was -1 percent.

Lots more economic activity is needed to find work for the chronically unemployed and new school-leavers. Our unemployment rate is still north of 10 percent. These robust air traffic numbers help set us on the right track, however.

While the environment is improving we must provide good service and pleasant experiences for our guests. No one has to come here. Those in the tourism and related services industry should work hard to make this a place people choose to return to repeatedly.

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