The lineup of speakers for the 10th Annual Abaco Business Outlook on Sept. 25, included David Johnson, Director General for the Ministry of Tourism. He spoke on the topic: “The Abacos: Our Most Diversified Family Island Economy and Its Enormous Opportunities for Future Economic Growth.”
Johnson began by comparing The Bahamas to other tourist destinations even though 93 percent of our potential lies among the islands that are untouched or undeveloped and are underpopulated by extension. In 2003, there were 95,000 stopover visitors for Abaco alone. The numbers declined to 87,000 in 2012 peaking at 111, 000 visitors in 2007.
Research, he said, shows that 34 percent of stopover visitors choose hotels for accommodations, while 50 percent of visitors choose to stay in apartments or villas or lodge at a friend’s home. Another 19 percent make up the number of private boaters who visit the island.
In the cruise-tourism sector, Abaco is third in The Bahamas behind New Providence and Grand Bahama, with Castaway Cay accounting for almost 500,000 cruise passengers annually on the island’s southern tip.
Against the backdrop of its proximity to the United States, a strong fishing industry, a relatively pristine environment with low crime, and an increasing second-home owner base, Johnson said that Abaco is a major player in the tourism sector.
“This has provided [Abaco] with great consistency and delivery of its strong tourism product, and a very strong repeat base of arrivals,” Johnson said. “We have seen Abaco achieve these kinds of numbers in the absence of any forced growth strategy, and with limited infrastructure for which it competes effectively for the most valued component of air stopover visitors at this point in time.
Johnson added that: “What’s more relevant here is that Abaco’s tourism is the most diversified in the country, if not within the region, comprised of a number of lucrative components that can and do work together in harmony.”
He stated that his firm belief was that the root to Abaco’s growth lies in the commitment to a further deliberate and accelerated strategy to empower Abaconians to plan and manage much more of our tourism sector.
Johnson said when the new airport terminal is completed they have already arrived at an option for jet service, which is no more than a season away with direct flights beyond Miami into Abaco.
Additionally, the Ministry of Tourism is committed to launching a proactive campaign to target pleasure boaters and allow them to prepay online to minimize their wait time and to eliminate the inconvenience of making cash payments.
“Abaconians my closing call, is that you continue in your quest to enhance your local economy while improving your quality of life for your community,” Johnson concluded. “Tourism must work for you.”