By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Total tourist arrivals to the Bahamas are projected to increase year-over-year by 5-6 per cent in 2013, Tribune Business was told yesterday, taking gross visitor numbers to more than six million.
Gary Young, the Ministry of Tourism’s senior director of research and statistics, told Tribune Business: “I think we’re looking at a 5-6 per cent increase this year; that’s what we’re projecting, at least for the first half.
“Things are looking better in the US economy, so that’s a good sign. The numbers are looking strong.”
Given that the Bahamas attracted between 5.8-5.9 million visitors in 2012, those projections - if accurate - would put the Bahamas on course to break the six million mark in 2013, with 6.148 million arrivals from a combination of stopover and cruise tourists.
Of course, arrival numbers are only part of the story, with tourist per capita spending, room rates and yields also key determinants of hotel and tourism industry help, but Mr Young reiterated: “We are expecting at least a 5 to 6 per cent increase in arrivals in 2013.
“March seems strong to date, and reflects a March Easter. As would be expected, April will feel its absence.”
As for 2012, Mr Young added: “Numbers are not formally released as yet, but the Bahamas’ arrivals will be up at least 6.3 per cent compared to 2011.
“Encouraging is the fact that the all-important air arrivals are expected to be somewhere between 7 per cent to 7.5 per cent above 2012.
“Cruise visitors will end the year 6.6 per cent above 2012. In fact, in 2012 there was only one month, October, where cruise visitors to the Bahamas showed a decline.”
Mr Young’s comments come after Expedia, the world’s largest online travel company, said it saw more than 140,000 room nights generated for Bahamian hotels in 2012 via its online marketing and distribution network.
The company described the Bahamas as its “fastest growing market” for 2012, with the more than 140,000 room nights generated representing a more than 40 per cent increase year-over-year.