The Bahamas says its visitor arrivals have now reached pre-pandemic 2019 levels.
In the first three quarters of 2023, the destination welcomed more than 7.2 million visitors, equalling in nine months the total number of arrivals for all of 2019, putting the country on target to welcome more than eight million visitors this year, according to a press release.
The Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation confirmed that arrivals by air and sea, from January through the end of September 2023, numbered 7,209,165.
Of this record number of visitors to the islands, 1,332,752 came by air and 5,876,413 came by sea as total arrivals are outpacing 2019 by 33 per cent.
"The overall goal of our efforts in tourism is to continually increase visitor arrival numbers to our destination, year after year. Our tourism performance in 2023 has been spectacular on two fronts. We have surpassed the tourism benchmark year of 2019 across all metrics, and our visitor arrival numbers are a resounding indication of a complete post-pandemic rebound," said the Hon. I. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation.
Cruise arrivals from the beginning of the year through September are up 61 per cent over the corresponding period in 2022, and 45 percent ahead of 2019.
Foreign air arrivals, which include stopovers and day visitors, are up 21 per cent over the same period in 2022 and stopover visitors through September, are just shy of the total number of stopover visitors for the same period of 2019.
Hotel occupancy is up over 2019, with average daily room rates and room revenue significantly ahead of that year.
The Bahamas also continues to see gains in the overall spend of visitors onshore.
"We are now certain to have a record year for tourism arrivals, and it's no fluke," DPM Cooper said. "We have some of the most attractive cruise destinations in the region, with the new Port of Nassau making waves on social media and throughout the travel sector. Nassau, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Half Moon Cay and other destinations have seen remarkable growth in cruise arrivals in the past two years, with more visitors coming off the ships and spending more time onshore. This activity is being felt throughout the economy."
DPM Cooper pointed out that the metrics are also changing with stopover visitors.
"We see that room rates are nearly 60 per cent higher than they were in 2019, yet occupancy rates are higher and room nights sold continues to increase," he said./
"This not only translates to higher revenue for all tourism stakeholders, but also speaks to the extraordinary demand that exists for our product. Importantly, we are seeing a healthy hold in repeat visitors from our main source markets, while witnessing major increases in new arrivals who are spreading the message about The Bahamas."
Cooper said the dedication of tourism stakeholders to providing new experiences and stellar service year in and year out has not only helped The Bahamas tourism industry, recover to pre-pandemic levels, but is also pushing us toward gaining significantly more market share in the region.
"We must be incredibly intentional about tourism. The Ministry of Tourism and its partners spend a great deal of time and energy to better understand our customers," he said. "What we know is that with the projects underway in many of our islands and, the next few years of redevelopment of airport infrastructure across our islands, we will continue to grow our arrival numbers, barring any acts of God or global shocks."
"This is the strongest tourism has ever been, and we only expect our performance to get stronger."