Keep on rockin’ in the Bahamas
Despite Dorian, destination posts record arrivals
Although Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on Abaco and Grand Bahama for 36 hours Sept. 1 to 2 and false reports emerged that the entire destination was decimated, 2019 ended on a high note for The Bahamas.
“It is with great pride we report that The Islands of The Bahamas has exceeded a record-breaking 7 million visitors in 2019, our strongest tourism numbers in history,” Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told a packed room gathered for Caribbean Travel Marketplace in Nassau, Bahamas. “This is a tremendous accomplishment, particularly in light of the challenging year we as a country just endured… We have a few historical moments to record for 2019 and they are: highest record amount of stopover visitors ever at 1.78 million. Highest record amount of stopover visitors ever from the United States at 1.45 million. And a whopping 7.216 million total visitor arrivals for 2019.”
D’Aguilar said the impact of Hurricane Dorian didn’t slow Bahamas’ tourism growth, attributing the hard work of Bahamians at all levels of the tourism industry combined with data- driven agile marketing, authentic storytelling, aggressive public relations, and sales and airline strategies resulting in “2019 being one for the history books.”
“The Bahamas is open for business and still rockin’,” he said.
Overall, he described The Bahamas as a very North American-centric destination with 89% of foreign visitors
coming from North America.
Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, said for the next few months its promotional efforts will shift from the Fly Away campaign to marketing that shares the message that The Bahamas are still rocking.
The new material includes another collaboration with Lenny Kravitz, who expresses, “This is The Bahamas and we’re still rocking.”
Say my name
Moving forward, Jibrilu stressed the importance of referring to its 16 key islands for visitors by name.
“When the world said The Bahamas was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, when, in fact, it was our two northern-most islands, the Abacos and east end of Grand Bahamas, we all paid the collective price,” she said.
Another important message was that Grand Bahama has made strong strides in its recovery efforts since Hurricane Dorian with 100% of cruise lines operating again, 84% of the hotels now reopen, 84% of restaurants, 75% of tours and 55% of attractions.
“They’re saying come on, give us a chance, we are really getting back into business,” she said
While the Abacos have a long road ahead, she said the airport, hotels and restaurants in South Abaco are trying to get back to some level of normalcy.
“Hurricane Dorian came, it sure dealt us a blow, but it didn’t knock us out,” she said. “It wasn’t business as usual, we were battered, we were bruised, but we’re still rockin’.”
Come sail away
Looking ahead, Fred Lounsberry, CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board said 2020 promises to be an exciting year with the 288 room Margaritaville Beach Resort complete with water park slated to open this summer and the ongoing $250 million transformation underway in the port of Nassau.
“It’ll really change and transform the downtown,” he said.
Lift access to the destination continues to be strong, particularly into Lynden Pindling International Airport. Among the added capacity, Air Canada has increased its service to fly to Nassau four times a week from Montreal.
“Airfare is one of the first things people look at when planning travel, and direct flights help bring an influx of tourists here,” he said.
Appealing to snowbirds and cruisers alike, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is now offering a Cruise & Stay program for visitors sailing from the Port of Palm Beach to combine their getaway with two to four nights at a hotel in Nassau or Paradise Island including Meliá Nassau Beach, SLS Baha Mar, Atlantis Paradise Island, and Comfort Suites Paradise Island.
“It’s a new way to come and stay,” he said, noting the goal is to expand the package across more resorts in the destination.
The program is also offered for cruises to Freeport, Grand Bahama at Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, Grand Lucayan at Lighthouse Pointe, Pelican Bay Hotel, and Taino Beach Resort & Clubs.