Christmas and Thanksgiving holiday bookings to The Bahamas are sold out, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday.
The minister said this as the sector awaits the compilation of tourist visitor arrival numbers for September, which saw significant cancellations due to Hurricane Dorian.
But the minister is looking forward.
“Christmas and Thanksgiving, they’re not seeing any major cancellations and they’re holding their own. Obviously, I have to focus on the Family Islands,” he told
reporters on Tuesday outside the Churchill Building.
“I’ve spoken to a number of the hotels here in Nassau and while yes, maybe in September and October they have noticed some decrease in their bookings, certainly Thanksgiving and Christmas are still holding, those are the major destinations here on New Providence. Some of the Family Islands have been quite impacted by the negative public relations that The Bahamas has been wiped out.”
In the weeks following Hurricane Dorian, D’Aguilar and senior tourism officials have travelled to Canada and New York to get the word out that The Bahamas is still open for business.
Prior to the storm, The Bahamas was on track to surpass the 6.6 million tourists that visited the islands in 2018.
D’Aguilar had projected the country would have the highest visitor arrivals in history in 2019.
But with the two tourist hot spots now unbookable, those projections have changed, he said.
“I’ve had to tone down. You know I was very optimistic in mid-August, where I was quite convinced that we would hit the seven million tourists mark and I was very upbeat. Obviously, I will have to revise those projections. We have lost Grand Bahama and we have lost Abaco. Between the two of those destinations in 2018 we received 1.1 million visitors; about 200,000 were stopover between the two destinations and the balance was cruise passengers,” he said.
“Obviously, especially Abaco will be significantly impacted and the question is are those passengers going to relocate to other portions of The Bahamas, or are they just not going to come. So, it’s still very early days, it’s exactly one month from the storm and our numbers for the month of September have not been put together yet so we can really begin to see what the impact has been. But it is no doubt that in 2018 those two islands represented about 17 percent of our foreign visitor arrivals and that is a huge number and our overall visitor arrivals will be impacted.
“One thing I can say about tourism is it’s very resilient. It’s subject to a lot of shocks, travel advisories, storms and the like. But the memories are short and people bounce back fairly quickly.”
Earlier this month, D’Aguilar said the Ministry of Tourism would roll out a new marketing campaign by the end of October or early November to attract visitors for the busy winter months.