Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune News Editor
TOURISM officials estimate that direct visitor spending in the Bahamian economy amid record tourist arrivals will “far exceed $6bn” this year, exceeding previous records, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper.
Mr Cooper hosted top tourism officials and the press at Margaritaville Beach Resort yesterday to celebrate the tourism milestones.
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis later said in a statement that the country’s record-breaking eight million visitors this year is boosting national income, creating extensive employment and stimulating various sectors of the economy.
“This historic achievement in tourism is more than a fleeting moment of success; it is a foundation upon which we will build a more robust, diverse, and prosperous economy,” Mr Davis said in a statement.
With November and December numbers not yet counted, the country has already blown by its previous yearly record of visitor arrivals, 7.2 million in 2019.
Mr Cooper said foreign air and sea arrivals in October increased by 45.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2022 and surpassed 2019 by 32 per cent.
Foreign air arrivals for October year-to-date were up by 19.7 per cent compared to 2022 and higher than in 2019.
“Cruise arrivals were up 54.2 per cent over 2022 levels and 43.2 per cent over 2019 levels,” Mr Cooper said.
Earlier this year, the unemployment rate dipped to a 15-year low. But amid complaints about inflation and the cost of living, statistics have not shown whether salaries have started to increase.
Mr Cooper nonetheless said the tourism records are translating into economic improvements for average Bahamians.
“Much of what happens by way of take home is driven by gratuity, tips,” he told reporters. “The higher the level of occupancy, the higher the levels of arrivals, the more people eating at restaurants, I think it follows that the large majority of workers in the tourism space directly would have seen an increase in their overall take-home pay.
“When we talk about the overall impact of tourism, I mentioned today $6 billion of new spending. A lot of it’s going directly into the pockets of Bahamians, workers, vendors large and small, tour operators, tour workers, hotels, hotel workers, restaurant, restaurant workers. There is no question in my mind that everyone is feeling the impact from the boom in tourism.”
During his speech, Mr Cooper said “pent-up post-pandemic demand can no longer explain” the growth in tourism. He said visitors recognise the country’s brand as an “unparalleled tourist paradise where the breathtaking beauty of the islands of The Bahamas and service delivered are unmatched.”