Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Sands said the island is on the cusp of a “turning of the tide” as he looks toward the island more than doubling its current visitor arrival numbers in 2020.
The Bahamas made history for a second year in a row with its total visitor arrival numbers hitting a record 7.2 million in 2019.
“I’m encouraged by what we saw over the Christmas and new year’s holidays. I saw some increase in traffic in my businesses and my contacts in Harbour Island and central Eleuthera have also noted increased traffic, especially during the Christmas week,” he told Guardian Business.
“I suspect that we have experienced an increase in traffic on the island overall and hope that this is sustained throughout the year and the years to come. I believe that this island has not reached its full potential. If the projects in the pipeline are realized and the local communities are revitalizing simultaneously, I believe that Eleuthera could more than double its current visitor arrivals numbers and sustain them long term.”
His overall outlook for Eleuthera’s economic growth this year is equally optimistic, however Thomas said while the island’s tourism economy grows, protecting it must be paramount.
“I believe that Eleuthera is on the cusp of something great, a turning of the tide, especially given the length of the recession in the south and most areas of Eleuthera. We need to stay the course and work together to grow our economy. Businesses need to develop a global mindset and ensure that they have the tools necessary to service our international guests. We don’t need to focus on just being the best on the island, we need to be working on living up to a global standard,” he said.
“We also need to protect our tourism product, which means approaching development in a sustainable and environmentally thoughtful way. It’s not that we need to stop development but we need to ensure that it is approached in a way that ensures that our island remains beautiful for generations to come. I remain hopelessly optimistic about our island and our people.”
The most recent data on total tourist arrivals to the Family Islands showed an increased by 9.2 percent by the end of the third quarter of 2019.
However, at half a million, it was significantly lower than the 45.1 percent surge at the same period in 2018.
In 2018 Eleuthera saw the greatest year-on-year difference with an increase of 86.6 percent compared to 2017, for a total number of 414,029 foreign air and sea arrivals.
Air arrivals on Eleuthera increased by 26.8 percent to 61,786.