By NATARIO McKENZIE
EXUMA is experiencing the fastest growth rate of any multiple-island destination in the Bahamas, with its 46,000 stopover arrivals year-to-date representing a 14 increase.
Joy Jibrilu, the Ministry of Tourism's director-general, told the 10th Exuma Business Outlook conference that the increase had been largely driven by the introduction and reliability of jet service such as Air Canada from Toronto; American and Silver Airways from Florida; American Airlines from North Carolina; Delta from Atlanta; and Bahamasair and Sky Bahamas providing lift from Nassau.
"Their combined efforts have generated just over 46,000 stopover arrivals year-to-date, which is 14 per cent more business delivered this year than over the same period last year," said Mrs Jibrilu.
She added that complementing the airlift to Exuma were numerous upgrades to the tourism plant throughout the destination. Mrs Jibrilu said February Point, one of the legacy high-end resorts of Great Exuma, is undergoing a $40 million expansion and nearing completion on development of its 40-boat marina.
"Last year, February Pointe opened its Welcome Centre, restaurant and spa, and construction has now commenced on the first phase of a 20-unit condominium complex, six penthouses, warehouse and dry-dock storage rack for boats," she said.
"The operators of February Point have been stellar corporate citizens through financial contributions made to local public health and emergency management agencies, and a generous donor to the Cancer Society of Exuma, local schools, sporting clubs and local events."
Mrs Jibrilu also highlighted boutique developments such as Peace 'N' Plenty and Lumina Point on Stocking Island, which opened in February. Lumina Point is a 12-room solar-driven retreat that caters to an eco-conscious clientele.
Mrs Jibrilu said the $250 million Children's Bay Cay and Williams Cay project, by Swiss businesswoman Donna Bertarelli, is under development and expected to employ 200 Bahamians when operational.
She suggested these projects will drive the migration of Exumians back home, and provide small business opportunities in farming, boat tours, ferry transportation, marina services, spa and wellness and retail.