The government is looking at how it can help to improve the hotel sector in The Bahamas, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said Friday, explaining that on average, every night, there are almost 7,000 vacant rooms.
Minnis, who was the keynote speaker at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) annual general meeting, said his government is prepared to look at how it can help hoteliers optimize tax revenue, employment, occupancies and return on investment.
“Indeed the best attraction for new investors, both local and foreign, is the evidence that good occupancies and good returns can be made consistently in The Bahamas tourism industry,” Minnis said.
“I recognize that our biggest local and foreign investors in tourism are those already in The Bahamas with empty room inventory.
“If we were to move hotel occupancies to a much higher level, like cruise ships, and with a solid average room rate, we will have increased tourism GDP by a significant percent without another major resort investment.”
The Bahamas has had a boom year for tourism this year, and hotels’ average daily rates have been up. But hotels have also seen a rise in competition from vacation home rentals like Airbnb, which was on the rise by about 50 percent as at October, according to the Central Bank of The Bahamas’ Monthly Economic and Financial Development’s report.
Minnis said the Ministry of Tourism is still exploring how to make the country’s stopover portion of all visitors as successful as the cruise passenger portion, which he explained is vitally important to many Bahamians.
“It is telling that while cruise ships coming to The Bahamas exceed 90 percent occupancies, our hotels appear to remain around 60 percent,” he said.
“I applaud the minister of tourism for his attempts to get more cruise passengers to leave their ships and to create more compelling experiences to extract more spending from cruise passengers.
“The minister recognizes that the spending of those passengers is a very important segment of our economy, especially for taxi drivers, merchants, shopkeepers, hair braiders, tour providers, straw vendors, beach vendors and others.
“Many of these largely independent business men and women receive relatively little from the hotel visitor, so that aggregate spending by cruise passengers is critically important to the income of these citizens.”
The government is preparing to overhaul and liberalize Nassau’s cruise port, which is expected to give an added boost to the cruise sector. The request for proposals (RFP) process for bidders interested in renovating and operating the cruise port closed Friday.