Bahamas beats pre-COVID tourism volumes by 25.8%


Tribune Business Editor


The Bahamas has finally beaten pre-COVID tourism volumes as higher-spending stopover visitor arrivals for September exceeded 2019 numbers by almost 26 percent, it was revealed yesterday.

The Central Bank, unveiling its October monthly economic developments report, also suggested that the post-pandemic tourism rebound was maintained through what is traditionally the industry’ slowest month of the year as air arrivals rose by 57 percent year-over-year.

Aided by the removal of COVID-related restrictions that still impacted 2021’s performance, and continued pent-up travel demand in the US, the Central Bank said: “Tourism sector output remained buoyant, bolstered by healthy growth in the high value-added air segment and recovered sea traffic given the relaxed pandemic restrictions and pent-up demand for travel in the key source market.

“The latest official data provided by the Ministry of Tourism showed that total visitor arrivals by first port of entry rose to 465,341 in September from 158,660 passengers during the same period in 2021. In particular, the dominant sea component grew to 397,303 compared to 115,312 visitors in the previous year.

“In addition, air traffic strengthened to 68,038 from 43,348 in the prior year - exceeding pre-pandemic levels [and] representing 125.8 percent of air arrivals recorded in 2019.” This is the first indication that The Bahamas has matched, and surpassed, pre-COVID numbers since the pandemic struck more than two-and-a-half years ago in March 2020.

“Disaggregated by major port of entry, total arrivals to New Providence more than doubled to 198,806 in September from 79,880 in the comparative 2021 period. Contributing to this outturn, air and sea traffic measured 57,037 and 141,769 visitors, respectively,” the Central Bank added.

“Similarly, the Family Islands attracted 237,570 visitors, exceeding the 72,878 recorded in the previous year, attributed to gains in both the air and sea components of 9,072 and 228,498, respectively. Foreign arrivals to Grand Bahama totalled 28,965 compared to just 5,902 a year earlier, owing to increases in the air and sea components to 1,929 and 27,036, respectively.”

With COVID restrictions now lifted, total visitor arrivals were said to be up 403 percent year-over-year largely due to the cruise industry’s resumption. That sector was completely shutdown until June-July 2021 and, as a result, 2022 sea arrivals to The Bahamas for the nine months to end-September were some 1,033.2 percent up on last year. Air arrivals are 73.4 percent ahead.

“For the nine months to September, total arrivals recovered to 4.758m vis-à-vis 954,859 in the comparative 2021 period, when a 45.6 percent decline was registered,” the Central Bank said. “Air arrivals rose to 1,076,736 visitors, extending the 67.1 percent gain a year earlier, bolstered by growth in all major source markets. Likewise, sea arrivals increased to 3,681,388 passengers, a reversal from a 76.3 percent fall-off in 2021.”

Meanwhile, visitor departures for the first nine months of 2022 were some 83.7 percent ahead of the prior year. Those to the US were up 69.3 percent, while departures to other destinations rose 301.6 percent. “The most recent data provided by the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) revealed that for the month of October, total departures - net of domestic passengers - increased to 85,434 compared to 58,857 in the same month of 2021,” the Central Bank said.

“In particular, US departures expanded to 72,662 from 51,941 in the prior year. Further, non-US departures advanced to 12,772, from 6,916 a year earlier. On a year-to-date basis, total outbound traffic grew to 1,067,727 from 581,345 passengers in the corresponding 2021 period, following a 48.8 percent growth in the previous year.

“Specifically, US departures recovered to 923,179 visitors, extending the 67.2 percent expansion in the comparative 2021 period. Correspondingly, non-US departures rose to 144,548, a turnaround from a 44.3 percent decrease in 2021.”

As for The Bahamas’ short-term vacation rental market, the Central Bank said: “In the short-term vacation rental market, data provided by AirDNA revealed ongoing gains during the month of October. Specifically, total room nights sold increased to 115,152 from 71,234 in the same period last year.

“Reflecting this outturn, the occupancy rates for both entire place and hotel comparable listings grew to 51.7 percent and 51.1 percent, respectively, compared to 44.7 percent and 42.4 percent in the prior year. Further, price indicators rose year-over-year, as the average daily room rate (ADR) for entire place moved higher by 10.2 percent to $509.82, and hotel comparable listings by 11.8 percent to $188.59.”

Meanwhile, acknowledging that The Bahamas remains caught in an inflationary spiral, the Central Bank nevertheless produced figures lower than those released recently by the National Statistical Institute. “Average domestic consumer price inflation - as measured by the All Bahamas Retail Price Index - increased to 5.1 percent during the 12 months to September from 2 percent in the same period of 2021,” it said.

Suggesting that this largely reflected the impact of higher global oil prices, the Central Bank added: “In particular, average costs rose for communication (10.5 percent); recreation and culture (7.4 percent) and education (2.1 percent) after posting reductions in the prior year.

“Further, the average inflation for transport accelerated to 15 percent vis-à-vis 2 percent in the previous year. In addition, the rise in average costs quickened for restaurants and hotels (10.5 percent), food and non-alcoholic beverages (10.3 percent), health (4.9 percent), clothing and footwear (4.1 percent), housing, water, gas, electricity and other fuels (2.7 percent), furnishing, household equipment and maintenance (2.1 percent and alcohol beverages, tobacco and narcotics (1.2 percent).”

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