By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
August tourism numbers were down just 15 percent compared to 2019’s pre-COVID levels, the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general said, amid hopes that more investments are in the pipeline.
Joy Jibrilu, the Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas’ tourism arrivals were “strong” and down just 15 percent from 2019, “way ahead of the regional trend”.
“This took everyone by surprise,” she said. “September and October are trending soft, but that’s anticipated. We know that weather events impact on those months, and therefore people don’t travel as much. But we’re seeing a strong November and December, and that means we’re going to have a much better year than anyone could have ever anticipated.”
Mrs Jibrilu did not provide any figures other than the percentage. Meanwhile, Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister and minister for tourism, investments and aviation, said during a tour of Sterling Global’s Hurricane Hole project on Paradise Island: “I’m advised that we have steady forward bookings, and we are optimistic about the next few months and the numbers in terms of stopovers, in particular, that will come.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re still in the middle of the pandemic, and it’s important that we do all we can as individuals, as employees and as business owners to ensure that we continue to follow the protocols to help to contain COVID.”
Signalling “high demand” for The Bahamas as a tourist destination, Mr Cooper added: “The director general assured me that the trends we are seeing are very positive for the future, and speaking with some hotel properties and owners and managers already, they are likewise optimistic about what they’re seeing over the next few weeks.
“I’ve indicated before that our priority is to return the number of tourists to pre-COVID levels. We’re working hand-in-hand with our partners to ensure that we can get there for the betterment of the Bahamian people.”
Speaking directly to the August and September months, Mr Cooper said he did not have the data to-hand but information provided by senior Ministry of Tourism staff indicates arrivals numbers have been “positive year-on-year, and they look even more positive going into the next few weeks.”
Mr Cooper added that there are ten investment projects in the pipeline, and said: “These projects take time to get out of the ground, and this is why I’m excited about what I see here today. We want more shovel-ready projects. This is what we need to move our economy along to get the economic growth that we need and to keep our country growing.
“Coming out of a very difficult season it’s important that we see more of this, and this is why I’m so happy to be here.”