Jibrilu: One million stopover visitors possible by year-end

‘Visitor spend has increased, so what we’re hoping to see is a real uptick in economic input’

The Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation is hoping 2021 stopover visitor numbers will hit one million by the end of the year, after a dismal year for tourism in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the ministry’s Director General Joy Jibrilu contends the numbers could show visitor quality trumped quantity in 2021, as hotel average daily rate and visitor spend are at “great year” levels.

Jibrilu, who made the remarks at the Office of the Prime Minister’s weekly press briefing, said it is a possibility that the numbers could reach one million, but that metric does not necessarily tell the whole story as visitors have been staying longer and spending more.

“That dream is a possibility and so that would be a great testament to all the hard work that has been done in the destination, but it’s more than that at this stage,” said Jibrilu.

“We’re realizing that during our recovery, it’s not necessarily about the quantity of numbers, it’s the quality of numbers. So, what we have seen that’s been tremendous is that our hotel occupancy rates, while they’re good, what we call the average daily rate for these hotel properties they’ve not dropped, they have increased.

“Visitor spend has increased. So what we’re hoping to see is a real uptick in economic input into the destination. I think that’s going to be interesting at the end of the year, to say yes, we made our goal of a million, but more than that, the spend we saw in 2021 was equal to that of a great year and so that’s what this year is unveiling for us.”

According to Jibrilu, hotels are seeing record occupancies for Thanksgiving of 90 percent and beyond on Nassau and Paradise Island and throughout the Family Islands.

“So numbers are above that which we saw in 2019,” she said. 

“This confirms the position that The Bahamas is ahead in terms of its recovery when we look at where the world is globally.”

She added that about 70 percent of passengers coming into the country are fully vaccinated.

In terms of airlift, Jibrilu once again lauded the amount of flights coming out of the United Kingdom, which is now the highest it has ever been, with eight flights per week coming into Nassau – two from Virgin Atlantic and six from British Airways.

She said British Airways increased its frequency because it noticed the increase in demand for this destination. She explained that Virgin revealed its bookings are pacing ahead of its projections for the first six months of its operations into The Bahamas.

She added that both airlines open myriad connections to places across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“And the best news of all for us in The Bahamas is they all connect through Heathrow and The Bahamas can boast of having every flight from the United Kingdom departing from Heathrow. That cannot be said for the rest of the Caribbean.” 

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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