By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamas will become ever-more reliant on tourism to the point where it generates almost 60 per cent of GDP within a decade, a global industry body has forecast.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in its annual assessment of the sector's economic impact, predicted that the sector's GDP and investment growth rates will accelerate even faster than this year over the 10-year period to 2018.
Likely buoyed by Baha Mar's full opening, tourism's direct and total GDP contributions are forecast to rise by 3.4 per cent and 3.1 per cent in 2018, respectively. The WTTC, though, is predicting that these growth rates will increase to an annual average of 3.6 per cent and 3.4 per cent for the next decade. This suggests that, for all the Minnis administration's stated ambitions to diversify the economy, the Bahamas is set to become more reliant - not less - on tourism as its primary economic growth and job creation driver.
The Bahamas is currently the world's ninth most tourism-reliant economy, in terms of the sector's contribution to GDP, but the WTTC report also highlighted its relative maturity by pegging its 2018 and next-decade growth forecast at 121st and 128th in the world, respectively.
"The direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP was $1.726 billion, 19 per cent of total GDP in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 3.4 per cent in 2018," the WTTC said, "rising by 3.6 per cent per annum from 2018-2028 to $2.543 billion, 23.9 per cent of total GDP in 2028.
"The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was $4.343 billion, 47.8 per cent of GDP in 2017, and is forecast to rise by 3.1 per cent in 2018, and to rise by 3.4 per cent per annum to $6.276 billion, 59 per cent of GDP, in 2028."
On the employment front, the WTTC predicted that the direct tourism industry workforce will expand by 20,000 over the next decade. "In 2017, Travel and Tourism directly supported 52,500 jobs (26.2 per cent of total employment). This is expected to rise by 3.4 per cent in 2018, and rise by 2.9 per cent per annum to 72,000 jobs (32.6 per cent of total employment) in 2028.
"In 2017, the total contribution of Travel and Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 55.7 per cent of total employment (111,500 jobs). This is expected to rise by 3.2 per cent in 2018 to 115,000 jobs, and rise by 2.8 per cent per annum to 151,000 jobs in 2028 (68.5 per cent of total)."
Tourism-related visitor exports accounted for almost 73 per cent of total Bahamian exports in 2017, and the WTTC added: "This is forecast to grow by 3.6 per cent in 2018, and grow by 4 per cent per annum, from 2018-2028 to $4.073 billion in 2028, 80.9 per cent of the total.
"Travel and Tourism investment in 2017 was $442.5 million, 18.6 per cent of total investment ($442.5 million). It should rise by 2.8 per cent in 2018, and rise by 3.2 per cent per annum over the next 10 years to $621.1 million in 2028, 22 per cent of the total."