Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, revealed that forward booking indicators for The Bahamas for April – which contains the Easter weekend – were up 15.6 percent year-over-year due to the timing of when the holiday fell.
Mr. D’Aguilar said that major Family Island destinations, including Abaco, were also benefiting from the tourism growth.
“I think the commercial airlines added additional lift into our three major Family Island destinations, which are Marsh Harbour, Exuma and North Eleuthera,” he said.
He noted that the second busiest airport is Leonard Thompson International in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. “It’s the second busiest airport in the country and we’re seeking to see how we can improve that experience down there.”
He confirmed that The Bahamas’ higher-spending air arrivals were meeting projected early increases, adding that the 2019 first quarter was maintaining the momentum generated by an “unprecedented” 2018 performance.
“The Bahamas is experiencing unprecedented growth. The record year up until recently was 2014, with 5.3m [total visitors], and we have now blown that way with 6.6m. We’re hoping that this year that would continue, maybe not at the same rate of growth, that’s a bit ambitious,” he conceded at a press conference yesterday.
“I think we have done an excellent job marketing the destination. We started our new campaign with Lenny Kravitz, which has created enormous brand awareness. The Bahamas is a hot place to come to. What has suddenly changed? New inventory [Baha Mar], new brand campaign, we’re firing on all cylinders and it’s having a significant impact on our economy.”
Ministry of Tourism data shows forward bookings over the next three months, the March to May 2019 period, are running nine percent ahead for international arrivals. Its data partner, Forward Keys, which tracks and reports inbound visitor data from key markets, reported that international arrivals to The Bahamas grew by 15 percent in January 2019 versus January 2018.
“Several key markets registered double digit growth,” Mr. D’Aguilar said. “In February, international arrivals increased by 11 percent year-over-year. The forward booking situation for the next three months, March to May is optimistic, with forward bookings running nine percent ahead for international arrivals. April, which is ahead by 15.6 percent, shows the most favourable outlook.”
The figures revealed March 21 indicate that The Bahamas’ tourism performance is broadly in line with the forecast given by Mr. D’Aguilar in January, when he said that projected air arrivals would be up 16 percent for three of 2019’s first four months.
Mr. D’Aguilar explained that the year-over-year forward bookings comparison for March was down due to the timing of Easter. Whereas that peak travel period fell at the end of March in 2018, the holiday this year occurs further into April.
He added that the Forward Keys data, while representing “arrivals on the books in The Bahamas”, did not cover the entire market and only accounted for several key tourist feeder markets for this nation – meaning that stopover arrival numbers could ultimately turn out to be even greater than these forecasts.