As 2020 comes to an end, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation is once again reflecting on a remarkably historic and challenging year. After celebrating a record-breaking seven million visitors in 2019, the country was poised for continued
growth and tourism-driven prosperity, thanks to planned increases in airlift from several major airlines, not to mention the endorsement of international media outlets, such as The New York Times, Frommer’s and The Globe and Mail, among others, that had touted The Bahamas as a must-visit destination in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was an unforeseen crisis that has had an unprecedented impact on the global tourism industry, the effects of which have been felt greatly in The Bahamas. Tourism is the heart of the country and, therefore, is everyone’s business.
As was seen after Hurricane Dorian, Bahamians are no strangers to making history under difficult circumstances. Now, the Bahamianpeople have come together as a family of islands, united in strength and resilience to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that business can soon prosper again. There is great optimism in that the islands will see a return to record breaking visitor numbers, once it is safe for all to travel freely again. In the meantime, the government is doing all that is possible to get Bahamians back to work.
“It is with the consistent support and collaboration of The Bahamas’ tourism stakeholders, promotion boards, agencies, media and other travel partners that the country has been able to establish the on-island guidelines and preventative measures to help curb further spread of COVID-19,” said the Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation, Dionisio D’Aguilar. “Our new, streamlined protocols for entry and inter-island travel, adjusted after careful monitoring, diligent analysis and swift response from all government entities, responsibly enforce public health and safety measures while allowing travellers to more freely enjoy our vacation experience.”
The latest protocols have been well received by consumers and tourism partners alike and coincide with news of hotel property reopenings and increased airlift resumption. Of note, three of the largest hotel properties in Nassau – Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Atlantis Paradise Island and British Colonial Hilton – are reopening mid-December, with additional hotel inventory coming back in January and February. Also starting mid-December, top U.S. airline carriers including JetBlue, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta are adding flights to their schedules.
“It is our duty at The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation to promote tourism to our beautiful country, and while 2020 brought unprecedented roadblocks to that task, our optimism and dedication to that mission never wavered,” said Joy Jibrilu, Dir. General of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation. “As we look ahead to 2021, we will continue to find new and unique ways to promote our islands offerings through expanded programs and initiatives that will bring even more visitors back to our shores as quickly as possible.”
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation continues its aggressive public relations and marketing campaign to reach key markets in the U.S. and promote that The Bahamas is open for business, while sharing entry requirements and travel protocols necessary to keep the country safe. Promotional tactics include:
- Targeted Media Plan – Since the beginning of March, a strategic, geo-targeted media plan has been underway with the goal of keeping The Bahamas in the consideration set for travellers, specifically those living in key markets such as South Florida, Houston and New York, and enticing those who have frequented the destination in the past to return.
- Robust Media Outreach – Consistent and widespread communication to tourism, lifestyle and news media has informed consumers that The Bahamas is open for visitors, while sharing accurate information on entry requirements and on-island protocols that will impact visitors. Publications that cover key vertical markets such as private aviation and boating were also targeted to ensure their audiences are informed of the latest requirements for visiting The Bahamas.
- Recent Awards – The Bahamas swept the awards circuit this year, winning several top accolades. The Still Rockin’ campaign, narrated by Bahamian-American rock legend Lenny Kravitz, was awarded the best destination advertising/marketing campaign in this year’s Travel Weekly Magellan Awards, the premier awards for the travel industry. Additionally, Caribbean Travel Awards named The Bahamas Innovative Destination of the Year; four Bahamian hotels including Kamalame Cay, Rosewood Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and SLS Baha Mar were recognized by Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards, and The Islands of The Bahamas has been recognized in this year’s Scuba Diving Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards , with placements highlighting the destination’s vast dive offerings across 700 islands and cays. The awards included The Bahamas winning top spots in many categories but most notable 1st in the big animals’ category. Caribbean Journal’s Caribbean Travel Awards.
Recognizes The Bahamas in Three Categories – In Caribbean Journal’s 7th annual Caribbean Travel Awards, The Bahamas was awarded Innovative Destination of the Year for its continued flexibility throughout the pandemic and setting a standard for destination entry practices. Additionally, Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport was named Caribbean Airport of the
Year and Graycliff was recognized as the Caribbean Restaurant of the Year.
- Bahamas Extended Stay Program – The Islands of The Bahamas announced its new Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) program, a one-year residency permit designed to allow professionals and students to pack their laptop and their swimwear as they march to the beat of their own island drum, remotely, from The Bahamas.
- Refreshed Website – A new, revamped Bahamas.com website is preparing to launch, offering a more user-friendly interface and including additional tools to promote key passion points for potential travellers. New sections will highlight romance, events, adventure and an extensive focus on how to get to the Out Islands.
- Virtual Sales and Vertical Market Offerings – As sales and vertical market promotion could not be conducted in-person this year, the Ministry of Tourism’s sales team worked quickly to come up with virtual offerings that would keep the travel trade community engaged. This work included the development of a new virtual platform for webinars and trade shows. The Bahamas specialist program was newly redeveloped to close the gap between education, inspiration and sales. With this new technology, the Ministry of Tourism conducted virtual events around the world bringing all suppliers and trade partners together to share and discuss COVID-19 protocols and updates. Additional virtual events included: the first-ever virtual Bahamas dive pavilion for dive operators during DEMA, the largest dive supplier show in the world; webinars for private aviators espousing the coming pre-clearance initiative in South Florida and Facebook Live events featuring culinary experts, award winning mixologists and other local craftsmen. Lastly, the team worked hard to strengthen relationships with air partners in an effort to facilitate the return of international flights. The Ministry also launched a dive and boat ambassador program which includes top influencers in the industry who will support and assist us in promoting the destination. Highlights for Romance 2020 include successful participation to TravAlliance Fall show for Destination Weddings and Honeymoon Segment and official review of The Bahamas’ Romance Magazine which will be fully launched during the Ministry’s Romance Forum in March of 2021.
- Authentic Storytelling – An award-winning content marketing campaign featured local Bahamians speaking to the country’s culture, cuisine, art and other unique offerings that make The Bahamas stand out from other island getaways.
- Blogger Program – In addition to an authentic storytelling program, the Ministry of Tourism also developed a robust blogging program on Bahamas.com where local influencers and writers shared their stories of travel and culture in The Bahamas in hopes of inspiring wanderlust and connecting with future visitors.
- Local Content Shoots – In an effort to keep new creative content flowing on Visit The Bahamas social channels, the Ministry enlisted local talent and camera crews to shoot content aimed at enticing users to want to learn more about the destination.