By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THERE has been a two per cent increase in the number of visitor air arrivals, but a one per cent “downturn” in the number of cruise ship passengers in the first quarter of 2016, Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu said yesterday.
Ms Jibrilu, revealing the latest visitor arrival statistics, said The Bahamas received a total of 382,324 air arrivals between January and March of this year as opposed to the 375,962 recorded in the first quarter of 2015, a difference of 8,362 that accounted for an increase of 2.2 per cent.
However, Ms Jibrulu said the country saw a “downturn” in cruise passenger arrivals, from 1,396,240 in the first quarter of 2015 to 1,377,752 in the first quarter of 2016. She said the slight decline was due to a “brief period of inclement weather” early on in 2016 when “certain cruise ships could not anchor off their private islands.”
However, she maintained that between the months of March and June, the numbers for both cruise and air arrivals are “trending upwards.”
Meanwhile, Ms Jibrilu said 2015/2016 has proven to be a “banner year” for airlift, as she highlighted a number of new air connections that have been established between the US, Canada, and Europe and New Providence and Grand Bahama to help increase air arrivals.
According to Ms Jibrilu, beginning in August, Southwest Airlines will offer daily flights from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau, while JetBlue will introduce two additional daily flights from Ft Lauderdale to Nassau. She also said the Ministry of Tourism is “actively pursuing” negotiations for direct flights to Nassau from continental Europe and the west coast of the United States.
Ms Jibrilu also said the ministry has made it a priority to “convert” as many cruise passengers to stopover visitors and “create greater incentives for cruise passengers to spend onshore.” She said this is because cruise passengers typically spend some $85 while visiting, as opposed to approximately $1,1000 generally spent by those that arrive “by air as stopover visitors.”
Ms Jibrilu also said the ministry will enter into a contract with online travel booking giant Expedia this fiscal year “in an arrangement where they will match our amount in advertising dollars.” She noted that Expedia generated some $110,000,000 in gross sales (air, hotel, etc) and more than $175,000 room nights to the Bahamas in 2015.
She also announced that the ministry has formulated a “strategic tourism marketing plan” to accelerate economic recovery in the southeastern Bahama islands that were impacted by Hurricane Joaquin. Taking the approach of a “positioning strategy,” Ms Jibrilu said the ministry selected each of those islands “to be promoted as a niche market destination in boating, fishing, diving sailing and romance”.
To implement the strategy, Ms Jibrilu said the ministry partnered with Bonnier Publishing, an international publishing entity. Under the agreement, Ms Jibrilu said Bonnier magazine editors made “press trips” to the affected islands to set up a “shop and drop campaign” as well as to attract new travellers to the islands via the stories written on “the pristine environment of these untrammelled islands.”
Ms Jibrilu’s statements come almost three months after international analysts predicted that the Bahamian travel and tourism industry will shrug off the Baha Mar delay to deliver a $47m economic output increase in 2016, growing this to $1.889 billion.