By NATARIO McKENZIE Tribune Business Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org THE Bahamas is set to experience a "robust" 2012 first quarter in the tourism sector, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said yesterday, attributing this to an expected 15 per cent uptick in group business. Speaking at the 21st annual Bahamas Business Outlook conference, the minister of tourism and aviation said: "We think we are going to have a robust first quarter. A large part of the reason we are having a robust first quarter is something that is extremely important to this destination, and that is group business." He added: "Our group business in the first quarter of this year is going to be up on the order of 15 per cent, and so we are going to find ourselves in a much better situation in the first quarter than we have seen for some period of time." Mr Vanderpool-Wallace noted that in 2009, during the global economic recession, the Bahamas saw a fall-off in group business. "In 2009 not only did we not get the group business that we were supposed to get, but there were companies who were booked to come to the Bahamas who cancelled because nobody wanted to be seen to be coming and enjoying themselves, the so called luxury shame at the time," he said. Mr Vanderpool-Wallace added that the cruise business continues to show "relentless growth", and is this year expected to exceed Cozumel, the largest port in the Caribbean in terms of passenger visitor numbers. "At the rate we are going right now we will be bigger than even Cozumel," Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said. He added that New Providence last year received three million cruise passengers, and that the Bahamas is also witnessing an uptick in overall air arrivals. Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said the Bahamas, in addition to bringing visitors to its shores, needs to also look at selling its tourism services. "I think that long-term, if we really want to be hot shots in this business, that's what we ought to be doing, and making sure that all of the knowledge in this business that we have, that we begin to sell our services in addition to bringing more people to the country. "We should have the best tourism architects, we should have the best tourism financiers, we should have the best tourism training programmes, the best consultants, and we should be selling those services around the world," he said.