While recovery efforts continue in parts of the Bahamas struck by Hurricane Dorian earlier this fall, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation has a clear message for the Canadian travel trade: that the destination is open for business, and that the best form of relief which Canadians can provide is to continue travelling there.
The ministry and its travel partners welcomed Toronto-area media to a destination update luncheon yesterday (Nov. 21) as the winter travel season gets underway, just months after Hurricane Dorian struck Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands in early September. While images of the storm’s destruction filled news reports and social media at the time – and Bahamian officials continue to coordinate reconstruction efforts there with relief groups – the majority of the destination went unscathed.
The message seems to have taken hold: Grand Bahama is reporting numerous hotel and attraction re-openings (along with the resumption of cruise calls) this month, while Nassau Paradise Island, home to many of the Bahamas’ resorts, has reported September 2019 occupancy rates among its largest hotels at 36.5 per cent, down just one per cent from the 37.5 recorded in September 2018, said Fred Lounsberry, CEO, Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board.
According to the ministry’s latest statistics, from January through September, Canadian arrivals to the Bahamas paced 10.5 per cent ahead of the same period in 2018. While the Bahamas Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, remarked that the destination is still a ways off from returning to full strength, everything is heading in the right direction.
“The tourism industry had an historic year in 2018 and has maintained momentum right up to Dorian’s arrival,” D’Aguilar said, adding that “international arrivals to the Bahamas increased by just over 13 per cent in August, including 2.1 per cent growth from Canada.
“Air capacity from Canada was up seven per cent and fall bookings were looking strong. It’s not business as usual in the Bahamas - that will be years away but this is a major step to be present in the Canadian market to regain momentum.”
How to help
Joy Jibrilu, director general, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, told PAX that with Canada representing such a large inbound market for the destination – number two in terms of overall visitor arrivals – the best way for travellers and the travel advisor community to help is to simply keep the bookings coming into 2020.
“The biggest way Canadians can help us is to keep booking those Bahamas holidays,” Jibrilu told PAX. “It’s really difficult for us at the moment to receive donations because we’re challenged with getting them down to the destination.
“We’re discovering that some people are cancelling their vacations, because they say they feel guilty visiting the islands that are open and having a good time while two of our islands were impacted. That’s the worst thing they can do, because the people from the affected islands are actually working on the islands that are open. Travellers are helping tremendously.”
The latest tourism developments
The Bahamas has and will continue to see the opening of a number of new resorts and attractions, along with updates to existing properties. Here’s the latest travel developments in the destination:
- Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has brought its Cruise & Stay program to Nassau, where travellers can extend their cruise with a resort vacation at a number of properties, including the all-inclusive Meliá Nassau Beach Resort at Cable Beach, SLS at Baha Mar and Comfort Suites on Paradise Island.
- A new five-star Margaritaville Beach Resort will open in June on Nassau, featuring amenities including a shopping concourse, bowling alley, kids’ club, private beach club, the St. Somewhere Spa and more.
- Warwick Paradise Island - Bahamas has rolled out its “WPIB Travel Agents Incentive Program,” providing eligible retail travel professionals with monetary incentives up to US$65 per booking on top of regular commissions up to 20 per cent. Travel agents must complete the “WPIB Specialist” training with the resort’s sales team to learn about the features of the resort and the incentive program.
- During 2018 -2019, Meliá Nassau Beach continued its beautification process; the main upgrades included totally new pools, exterior landscaping, hardscaping of pool areas, an updated interior and exterior façade, transformation of the lobby, modernized guest restrooms and new roofing.
- The British Colonial Hilton, the oldest resort in the Bahamas, is currently undergoing renovations.
- At the Graycliff Hotel, visitors can now blend and take home their own bottle of wine at the new Bahama Barrels. This experience is available daily to all visitors to Nassau and Paradise Island.
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