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DPM: Crime coverage woe ‘losing momentum’

By FAY SIMMONS

Tribune Business Reporter

jsimmons@tribunemedia.net

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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation Chester Cooper.

THE Deputy Prime Minister yesterday voiced optimism that damaging media coverage of The Bahamas is “losing momentum” with major resorts reporting peak winter occupancies “in excess of 80 percent”.

Chester Cooper, also minister of tourism, investments and aviation, told the House of Assembly that the Government, his ministry and the wider tourism industry “are intent on turning a negative into a positive” as he sought to generate an upbeat mood by suggesting the worst of the crime-related coverage has passed.

Still he admitted that there are “pockets” within the tourism industry that are suffering reduced bookings and a drop-off in visitor related business activity, and pledged that the Ministry of Tourism is “working hand in hand with them to reverse what they are experiencing”.

Pointing out that The Bahamas and its tourism industry have “faced many obstacles before”, Mr Cooper said: “We are determined that everyone in tourism-related businesses be part of the turnaround. There has been anecdotal data about a drop-off in visitors participating in local activities and some softening in booking trends. We are working diligently, and will arrest and reverse this trend.

“I want to share that the fruits of our labour are already beginning to manifest, with early indicators pointing towards an uptick in tourism. We have witnessed an increase in occupancy projections at our largest resorts for January, February and March compared to the same period in 2023. When I talk to you about occupancy levels at major resorts, I talk to you of occupancy levels in excess of 80 percent.”

Mr Cooper did not identify the “major resorts” he was speaking of, although presumably he was referring to Atlantis and Baha Mar. He later told the House of Assembly that the British Colonial property in downtown Nassau, having opened pre-Christmas with 300 staff and 18,000 square feet of meeting space, is “currently running for February and March at nearly 100 percent occupancy”.

“Furthermore, the Nassau Cruise Port has experienced an increase in cruise passengers visiting in 2024 compared to January-March 2023 signalling renewed interest and confidence in The Bahamas as a premier cruise destination,” the Deputy Prime Minister added.

“Arrivals at LPIA (Lynden Pindling International Airport) are reporting double-digit increases in arrivals for January and so far for February. Forward Keys analytics continue to report strong forward bookings.” However, Mr Cooper admitted that not all parts of the tourism industry have emerged unscathed from the blitz of negative inter- national media coverage surrounding The Bahamas’ early 2024 murder spike.

“Let me be clear that we acknowledge some pockets of stakeholders are report- ing a fall-off in activity and softening in bookings, and we are working hand in hand with them to reverse what they are experiencing,” he added. “We want to re-assure the public that we are working diligently to re-stimulate interest and redirect traffic with our tourism ambassadors and the Tourism Development Corporation.”

Mr Cooper said that while most negative publicity about The Bahamas had occurred in January, most media coverage had turned neutral or positive by February and visitor arrival numbers for January 2024 exceeded those of 2023.

He said: “During the month of January, Prime Minister Davis issued an official statement on behalf of our government and country, assuring visitors that The Bahamas remains a safe destination for tourists. We renew that today, and it is a message I am happy to report has been echoed by many of our visitors themselves.

“And, indeed, in January 2024 arrival numbers exceeded the record setting numbers of January 2023. While there were two separate, very significant spikes of negative press coverage and social media following the State Department news and then the assault allegations, both the press coverage and social media engagement fell quickly after each spike.

“By February 7, overall coverage had returned nearly to pre- advisory levels. To contextualise, we saw thousands of interactions regarding The Bahamas on various media platforms peaking around January 29, with a slowdown to hundreds of mentions by February 7 with the vast majority being neutral or positive.”

Mr Cooper continued: “While the recent travel advisory has undoubtedly posed challenges, it is incumbent upon us to navigate these turbulent waters with grace, resilience, and sobriety.”

“One of our primary initiatives is open communication and collaboration with key stakeholders in the travel industry. We are engaging in extensive out reach to wholesalers, tour operators and consortia disseminating accurate information to address traveller apprehension.

“Through paid ads in trade publications, informative webinars and in-person meetings with tour operators and distribution partners, we are working diligently to reassure our partners and stakeholder of the safety and allure o The Bahamas as a premie travel destination.

“Our goals are to deepen market penetration, pro mote a reassuring narrative and amplify The Bahama brand to a wider audience We plan to continue to saturate social media with authentic, positive stories.”

Comments

birdiestrachan 4 months ago

Doing a great job mr Cooper but there are many who do not wish the Bahamas well so they push the negative the doom and gloom and they oppose but the Bible say if God is for you who can be against you,

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