Growing the economy and providing employment opportunities for Bahamians is the focus of the Ministry of Tourism, and it will keep the Bahamas adaptable in its offerings to maintain a competitive advantage. That according to the Minister of Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar during his contribution to the Mid-Year Budget in the House of Assembly on March 14, 2018. Tourism, which is the country’s number one industry accounts for more than 60 percent of the economy. And according to Mr. D’Aguilar, this contribution needs to be accelerated. He noted, however, “tourism will not be provided with the kind of attention and assets if it is misperceived as a very small contributor to our economic development.” The minister explained that if accommodations move up to 90 percent full, tourism could increase its contribution to the Public Treasury by $645 million annually without adding a single new asset. “I am very confident that when history looks back on the first five years of the Minnis Administration, it will be remembered as a period of substantial economic growth,” he said.
Turning to the overall tourism performance, in 2017 The Bahamas received 6.14 million visitors. In 2016, the country received 6.27 million visitors – a decline of 2.1 percent. “This decline is attributed to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and to a lesser extent, Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, both of which resulted in significant impact to hotel product on multiple islands and temporary closures to hotels in major tourist centres such as Nassau, Paradise Island, Bimini and Grand Bahama, creating a negative ripple effect in foreign air and sea arrivals well into 2017,” the Minister said. “The industry had further setbacks from Hurricane Irma last year, which devastated the southern islands of Ragged Island, Inagua, Mayaguana and Acklins and Crooked Island.” In the first month of this year, air arrivals to The Bahamas were up by 7 percent and sea arrivals were up by 4.6 percent, the Minister said. In Grand Bahama, there was some “good news,” he said, noting that air arrivals were down by -18 percent but the destination experienced a 44 percent increase in overall arrivals, with the return of Royal Caribbean Cruise service to the island. “But it was Nassau/Paradise Island that led the way with a 7.9 percent increase in air arrivals in January 2018 primarily caused by the coming on stream of the Baha Mar property,” the Minister said.
Over 4,000 Bahamians are employed at that property and that number is expected to rise to 5,000, he noted. “The Ministry of Tourism will work with our industry partners to improve the variety and quality of service offerings, activities, entertainment, signature events, and family-friendly offerings to keep The Bahamas adaptable to help maintain its competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”