By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama is anticipating continued growth in visitor arrivals over the second quarter of 2015, with airlifts starting from eight US cities on May 21 and continuing to October 26.
Brooke Sherman-Grant, of the Ministry of Tourism, reported that the island is “coming off a favourable first quarter and perhaps the best hotel occupancy in 11 years”. She said resort operators are focused on the anticipated arrivals from the US gateways.
Mrs Grant added that tourism partners are pleased that the second annual summer programme, promoted under the umbrella of United States tour operator, Vacation Express, is projecting strong advance bookings for the island’s resorts.
Russell Miller, chairman of the Grand Bahama Tourism Board, reported that advance bookings for the summer programme have exceeded 10,000 passengers and has surpassed last year’s total bookings.
Sunwing Airlines will commence flights on a larger 189-seat aircraft from Baltimore, Cincinnati, Columbus, Houston, Nashville, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with four- and seven-night rotations from Newark. The aircraft has an increased seating capacity of 26 per cent.
The Sunwing Travel Group, which includes Vacation Express and the Grand Celebration, are the leading suppliers of stopover business to the island, Mrs Grant said.
The Sunwing Travel Group accounted for 20 per cent of stopovers and Grand Celebration 12 per cent, an increase of 8.27 per cent. Vacation Express accounted for seven per cent and Expedia six per cent. Fifty per cent of the hotel bookings reflect corporate sources, meetings and conventions, groups and business travel.
Betty Bethel, Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama, noted that visitors will be able to experience Bahamian culture and participate in several unique cultural events throughout the island this summer.
She said the Grand Bahama Regatta is set for June, Goombay Summer Festival in July and the Grand Bahama Gospel Fest and the annual 42nd McLean’s Town Conch Cracking Festival in October.
The Ministry of Tourism will start an advertising and promotional campaign to support the summer programme from June 16 to September 21. There will also be on-island familiarisation visits for 250 travel agents/trade community during the same period hosted by participating resorts.
Special emphasis will be placed on the vertical markets, including wedding and honeymoon and meeting planners.
According to travel statistics, in 2013, 80 per cent of the stopover visitors to Grand Bahama were from the United States. Eight per cent were from Canada, seven from Europe and one per cent each from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Stopover arrivals to Grand Bahama grew by 27 per cent between January and December, 2014.