By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A Cabinet minister yesterday said the benefits of The Bahamas' "unprecedented" tourism growth were having a "trickle down" effect that is boosting various segments of the industry.
Dionisio D’Aguilar, responding to a Tribune Business question, said: “As Baha Mar, for example, has ramped up they have begun to take on additional people. They are now, as a result, making more gratuities. We all initially thought Atlantis would see some reduction in their occupancy levels but they have managed to maintain their occupancy levels.
"The amount of money that’s flowing down to the average Bahamian worker employed in tourism, by definition, has to have grown because our numbers are increasing. In terms of tours and excursions I can only go by what I hear, and everyone says that things hot. I don’t have any science to prove that. I think that the trickle down effect is happening. You will also find pockets where it is not.”
Perhaps equally as difficult to determine, Mr D’Aguilar added, is whether visitor spend has increased as a result. “That data takes a while to collect. It’s a bit more complicated than simply tracking the number of persons that come in," he said.
"There are a number of ways we track that data. We survey people but also look at the VAT refunds people claim, and that gives us an indication for where people are spending money, but the number we generally stick with is about $1,500 for a stopover visitor and approximately $100 for a cruise passenger."
Mr D’Aguilar continued: “The research is still being done on whether there are increases in spend. Economic impact is a function of the number of visitors multiplied by spend. If the number of visitors have gone up, even if the spend were to remain the same, the economic impact would be significant.
"What is so incredible about these numbers is the overall increase in air visitors. That is the critical component because they are spending on average around $1,500 per person. When that goes up by 16.7 per cent the economic impact on that is quite substantial.”
Mr D’Aguilar said the Ministry of Tourism is exploring ways to get increase airlift capacity to several of the Family Islands. “We’re trying to crack that nut," he admitted. "How to get additional air capacity into those islands.
"They have very small inventories. Certainly, our 16-island marketing campaign is trying to build the case to go to other islands within The Bahamas and not just Nassau/Paradise Island. We’re really trying to push the fact that if you want a Caribbean holiday, the Bahamas has it all. It’s a challenge."