FOR too long, we have been speaking of the problems facing The Bahamas because of the economy – but a ray of sunlight may have just pierced the gloom.
Tourism figures are on the rise. Up, up and up they go – with nearly half a million more visitors arriving in The Bahamas last year as opposed to 2017.
That’s a rise of nearly eight percent in just a single year – and the figures for air alone are even more remarkable, with a rise of 16.7 percent. For New Providence alone, that figure is up by almost a fifth at 19.2 percent. It’s not just great news year on year – these are the best tourism figures in a decade.
It’s fantastic for the hotel industry particularly – and the long-voiced fears that Baha Mar might not lead to an overall rise but simply take visitors from other resorts seem to have been proven false.
There are problem areas of course – Bimini suffered a ten percent drop in air traffic in the year and Cat Cay and Half Moon Cay were both down overall and those areas need close examination – but there is a lot to be glad about, with average spending up too. Eleuthera, in particular, saw some astonishing results, with an 86 percent rise in arrivals by air after an increase in airlift to the island, while Carnival and Princess Cruises both added more stops to the island for their ships too.
More people arriving and more money being spent is positive for the country – and we hope this is just the start.
There are areas to improve of course – on more than one occasion, officials including Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar have called for people to be more creative in the ways they entice tourists off their ships or out of the hotels.
Speaking earlier this month after the announcement of plans for a new mega-port in Grand Bahama – which it is hoped will more than double the number of cruise visitors to the island – he urged people to rise to the challenge.
“We have to come up with creative ideas to create businesses that will be able to feed off this one million plus visitors that will come through that port,” he said. The same can be said for back in New Providence too – and perhaps that is one area where the government can be a little more active in celebrating the businesses that are capitalising on such opportunities.
Last year, a $50,000 fund was made available for entrepreneurs to help make the most of ideas with potential at a workshop – let’s take that one step further and showcase that The Bahamas Has Talent, with a publicised contest, a financial incentive for ideas and a prize to the business that proves a winner. Let the success of one good idea spark a dozen more in the community around. Let’s hear too about the businesses that sprang from that workshop last year – let’s celebrate our success stories.
With all this silver lining, we must not lose sight that a cloud remains, but it’s one we all know about and the first steps are being taken to chase it away.
Sea arrivals to Nassau and Paradise Island were down for the year, by 1.5 percent - that’s not much, but significant when compared to the success elsewhere.
We know the port needs a fresh vision, and the downtown area needs a rejuvenation. Big decisions await the government in this regard – and we hope that all sides can pull together to make sure this area does not fall behind as we ride this wave of resurgence in the tourism market.