By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE BAHAMIAN tourism industry's 2012 GDP contribution growth was yesterday forecast to exceed the next decade's average by hitting 3.1 per cent, with stopover arrivals projected to increase by around 500,000 over the next 10 years ti hit 1.883 million.
The World Travel & Tourism Council's (WTTC) 2012 annual report on the industry's contribution to the Bahamian economy projected that the sector will become ever-more important, steadily accounting for a greater share of this country's GDP and employment between now and 2012.
Noting that the travel and tourism industry's direct GDP contribution in 2011 was $1.408 billion or 18.5 per cent of total Bahamian economic output, the WTTC report said it was forecast to increase by 3.1 per cent in 2012.
The sector's direct GDP contribution growth rate was also forecast to rise by 2.6 per cent per annum between 2012-2022, hitting $1.872 billion or 18.9 per cent of GDP in the latter year.
The WTTC said: "The direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP in 2011 was $1.408 billion (18.5 per cent of GDP).
"This is forecast to rise by 3.1 per cent to $1.451 billion in 2012. This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services. But it also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists."
When it came to the Bahamian tourism industry's total GDP contribution, a measurement that also takes into account the spin-off and indirect impacts from this nation's number one sector, the WTTC report said this hit $3.514 billion in 2011 for a 46.2 per cent share.
The industry's total GDP contribution was forecast to grow by 2.9 per cent in 2012 to hit $3.616 billion or 46.3 per cent. Longer-term, this indicator is projected to grow by 2.6 per cent per annum over the next decade to hit $4.683 billion, or 47.3 per cent of GDP, by 2022.
As for employment, the WTTC report said tourism directly generated 43,500 Bahamian jobs, a figure equivalent to 25.8 per cent of the total workforce, in 2011. This figure is projected to grow by 2.4 per cent in 2012 to hit 44,500 or 25.9 per cent of total employment.
"By 2022, travel and tourism will account for 52,000 jobs directly, an increase of 1.7 per cent per annum over the next 10 years," the WTTC added. "This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services (excluding commuter services). It also includes the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists."
The wider employment benefits from tourism in the Bahamas are also set to expand. The WTTC report added: "The total contribution of travel and tourism to employment (including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts) was 90,500 jobs in 2011, or 53.8 per cent of total employment.
"This is forecast to rise by 2.5 per cent in 2012 to 92,500 jobs or 54 per cent of total employment. By 2022, travel and tourism is forecast to support 111,000 jobs or 55.1 per cent of total employment, an increase of 1.8 per cent per annum over the period"
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, minister of tourism and aviation, and hotel/private sector officials reserved comment on the WTTC projections when contacted by Tribune Business yesterday, saying they had not seen the report and wanted to analyse the data.
However, the projections all seem to indicate that the Bahamian economy and workforce is set to increase, not decrease, its reliance on the industry at a time when it is coming under ever-increasing competitive pressures from lower-cost destinations both in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
The WTTC ranked the Bahamas' as the ninth most reliant nation in the world on tourism, when it came to the industry's share of total GDP. For employment, the Bahamas is the world's seventh most reliant nation on tourism - and third when it comes to the industry's direct workforce contribution/share.
Visitor exports, which measure total tourist spending in the Bahamas during a particular year, hit an estimated $2.213 billion in 2011, according to the WTTC.
"In 2012, this is expected to grow by 3.6 per cent, and the country is expected to attract 1.403 million international [stopover] tourist arrivals. By 2022, international tourist arrivals are forecast to total 1.883 million, generating expenditure of $2.983 billion, an increase of 2.7 per cent per annum."
On the investment front, the WTTC said the Bahamian tourism industry attracted $379.2 million worth of capital investment in 2011, a figure projected to rise by 2.1 per cent in 2012.
Tourism investment is forecast to grow at a 3 per cent per annum rate over the next 10 years to $518 million by 2022, with the industry's share of investment inflows rising from 16 per cent to 16.9 per cent over the same period.