The Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation (MOTIA) revealed during the month of September that tourism performance has outpaced projections for the first seven months of 2023, with The Bahamas recording more than 5.89 million arrivals from January through the end of July. Current tourism performance, they said, puts the country well on the way to closing out the year at 8 million plus visitors.
Of the 5,893,118 total visitors who came to The Islands of The Bahamas in the first seven months of the year, 1,133,494 arrived by air and 4,759,624 by sea. July year-to-date arrivals are pacing 59 percent ahead of 2022 and 30 percent ahead of 2019, the busiest year on record.
Comparing 2023 overall arrivals by month, March arrivals peaked at 951,311, making it the busiest arrivals month in the country’s history. To contextualize how significant the gains were in the first seven months of 2023, during the entirety of 2022, 1,470,244 visitors came to The Bahamas’ shores by air; another 5,530,462 visitors arrived by sea.
According to the MOTIA, overall tourist spending is also up significantly. Major hotels in Nassau and Paradise Island experienced occupancy rates for 2023 eclipsing those of corresponding periods in 2019 and 2022. Average Daily Rate (ADR) is up an average of 59% compared to 2019 and room revenues are up 42% for the same period. More than 60% of visitors came to The Bahamas for the first time, with arrivals from nearly every region showing an increase over the same period last year.
The Hon. I. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation said, “The stronger than expected results speak to vibrancy of The Bahamas’ brand, methodical business strategies and the hard work of tourism industry professionals and stakeholders.”
“We are seeing record arrivals, because we have all worked together to resuscitate our tourism industry, coming out of the pandemic, and, because we continue to improve our tourism product,” said DPM Cooper.
In The Bahamas’ cruise business, The Port of Nassau welcomed the largest share of cruise arrivals followed by The Berry Islands (Coco Cay), Bimini (mainland and Ocean Cay), Half Moon Cay, Grand Bahama and Abaco (Castaway Cay), respectively. Overall cruise arrivals, January through July, are up 72.1% over the corresponding period last year, and 43% ahead of the 2019 historic cruise arrival figures. Overall air stopover arrivals, which represent, “heads in beds”, surpassed same period 2022 numbers by 24%, and matched 2019 figures.
The destination’s biggest market for visitors remains the United States, representing 90% of overall visitor arrivals, followed by Canada, and the United Kingdom and Europe. The Latin American market is gaining momentum in its steady return to pre-pandemic stopover levels.
Looking at visitor trends, from January through July, 70% of all stopover visitors came to The Bahamas primarily for a vacation, 15% for weddings and honeymoons, 6% to play in casinos, 4% for business and 5% for “other/undisclosed” reasons.
DPM Cooper further elaborated on the country’s impressive tourism performance:
“With a better developed downtown to complement the new cruise port and added destinations within The Bahamas coming on stream, the numbers will only continue to grow, if we continue to deliver great service and experiences. The plan for the redevelopment of Family Island airports and the construction of the new airport in Grand Bahama will reap rewards for Bahamians well into the future.”
“The last seven months of 2022 were the strongest in our history, prior to 2023. The first seven months of 2023 exceeded the expectations of tourism officials. Our job is to stay ahead of the demand.”
Cooper explained that government initiatives like the restructured Tourism Development Corporation will present entrepreneurship opportunities for Bahamians.
“We are experiencing explosive growth in tourism that can no longer be explained by pent up post-pandemic demand,” the Minister said.
“Great jobs and career opportunities are to be had in tourism, but there is also massive potential for ownership. The government is putting in place systems to allow Bahamians access to the training, certification, support and capital they need to take advantage of the country’s popularity as a tourist destination.”