D’Aguilar: Attracting bread and butter tourist demographic still a challenge

While there was glimmer of a rebound in tourism over the Easter and Spring Break period, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said The Bahamas is still somewhat challenged in the return of its “bread and butter” demographic of visitors.

Speaking to the feedback received from hotel partners during the uptick in business over the past month, the minister said the bulk of visitors remain those patronizing higher-end luxury properties.

“It really depends on what type of hotel you’re talking about. If you’re in that high-end niche business – the Albanys or the Lyford Cays or the Harbour Islands or the private yacht business, really catering to that high-end business, you are doing exceptionally well. That’s what they tell me,” he told Guardian Business recently.

“If you are in the market that caters to the middle or upper middle income traveler, you’re bouncing back but you’re not nearly to what you used to be. And that’s our core. That’s our bread and butter. So that is still obviously a challenge and certainly not anywhere near where it was in 2019 and we don’t expect it to come back probably for 12 to 24 months.”

D’Aguilar revealed earlier this week that The Bahamas welcomed the most visitors to its shores since the onset of COVID-19 travel restrictions during the month of March, with approximately 60,000 visitors.

The most recent monthly economic review by The Central Bank of The Bahamas showed that room revenue for large hotels on New Providence continued to deteriorate during the early part of the year, with room nights sold contracting 92 percent and room occupancy at just 7.5 percent.

D’Aguilar said he’s optimistic that more of the country’s source demographic will return to traveling as the United States continues to aggressively roll out vaccines.

“Thank God that the country that seems to have rolled out the vaccine the best is the United States. Thank God that is where 85 percent of our foreign visitors come from. So them pumping vaccines into three million-plus arms per day bodes well for our future. Because with the United States, you hear the reports of people traveling more. They’re probably getting ahead of themselves because the vaccine still needs to get into more arms before everybody gets giddy and wants to travel, but it is certainly a massive advantage for us to be where we’re positioned next to the country that’s actually managing the rollout of the vaccine the best across the planet,” he said.

“The only concern we would then have is that persons coming here would infect our people in greater numbers – I mean if you come here in greater numbers obviously the greater the probability you will infect our local citizens, so it behooves us certainly for those in the tourism industry to get the vaccine and I think the government is going to prioritize tourism workers or make it easier for tourism workers as it rolls out the vaccine, because it is so critical to the rebounding of the mainstay of our economy.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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