By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM MInister Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday that the “softness” in tourism activity in 2013 was expected, with this nation already seeing an uptick in activity highlighted by its “best April” in roughly six years.
Speaking after Prime Minister Perry Christie’s 2014-2015 Budget communication, Mr Wilchcombe said the drop-off in this nation’s tourism performance was expected given the loss of airlift and room inventory.
Prime Minister Perry Christie noted during his communication yesterday that it was estimated that tourist spending declined by 3 per cent in 2013, as the number of stopover visitors fell by 4 per cent, from 1.42 million to 1.36 million.
“I said throughout the year that we expected not to do well because we lost Spirit Airlines, and we lost airlift due to some other conditions,” said Mr Wilchcombe.
“We’re back up now. The numbers are looking better. We had the best month in about five or six years in April, and our May is showing the same trend. I think we are on the course we want to be on. Together with the fact that Grand Bahama numbers are up and Bimini numbers are up, I think we are going to have big numbers, but we are continuing to work.”
The Prime Minister Christie said yesterday tha the number of international passengers passing through the Grand Bahama International Airport fromJanuary through April 2014 was up by 10,679 or 25.16 per cent.
“The total number of incremental seats to the destination from the US via the Vacation Express/Bahamasair programme is 66,000, combined with 34,00 from Canada, for a total of 100,000 seats, or a projected increase in visitor arrivals of 71,000 passengers, representing 460,450 visitor nights overall and incremental tourism earnings of $57 million,” said Mr Chirstie.
Speaking on Bimini’s performance, Mr Christie added: “There was a 93 per cent increase in total tourist arrivals in Bimini from 54,036 in 2012 to 104,347 in 2013, making Bimini the fastest growing destination in the Bahamas.
“Once the deep water cruise pier is completed to accommodate day and night trips by Bimini Superfast, and the new 300 -oom hotel is opened by year end, we can expect some 500,000 annual tourism arrivals to Bimini.”
Despite a positive trend in tourism performance, Mr Wilchcombe said the Bahamas was “not out of the woods yet”.
“I don’t want to say we are out of the woods completely because we have competition out there and we are talking to airlines. We are finding new business and going after new markets,” said Mr Wilchcombe.
“The airlift was our concern; we’re doing better now. We’re going to continue to grow. The difficulty in Nassau is we have lost some inventory, so the numbers are expected to be down. Until the inventory comes back, we’re still going to have an issues. We want to continue on the trend we’re on ensuring growth and ensuring that the inventory is here.”