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2006-08-31 09:00:24

Tourist Numbers Disappointing

Bahamas tourist arrivals were barely ahead of last year when numerous hurricanes ravaged the Caribbean and tourism was unusually depressed.

Two point five million visitors entered various ports in The Bahamas in the first six months of 2006, newly released figures from the Ministry of Tourism are showing. It reflected a marginal increase over the figures recorded between last January and June.

The statistics used by the Ministry of Tourism are actually derived from the Immigration Department's head count of all foreign visitors and transit arrivals to the country. It excludes ship crews, diplomatic personnel and returning residents.

As was expected, New Providence lead the way in arrival figures with 1.5 million entries to the island, which was 3.2% fewer than the amount of tourists who chose the destination within the first six months of last year. The figure for the month of June exclusively was 229,819 which was still slightly fewer visitors than who arrived to the island in the same month last year.

And while foreign arrivals to the island of Grand Bahama fell 7.4% below what was recorded in June 2005, the year to date figure surpassed the number of visitors who came to the island during the first half of 2005. In excess of 58,000 tourists came in June 2006 while more than 374,000 of them either flew or sailed into Grand Bahama in the first half of this year, the statistics showed.

The new figures also showed that in the Family Islands there were 140,000 visitors in the same six month period while arrivals in the month of June alone totaled just under 30,000. In both instances there was an increase over last year's figures.

The Central Bank of the Bahamas' last assessment of financial and economic developments for The Bahamas referred to a steady growth in stopover business over the first four months of the year. But that, according to analysts, was partly muted by further contractions in cruise traffic.

Tourism figures for the month of April, revealed a marginal (0.2%) increase in total visitor arrivals, compared to the same period a year ago, reflecting a 9.6% firming in air tourists, which negated the 3.7% reduction in arrivals by sea, the Bank's report noted.

It added that the development stemmed principally from a 32.1% improvement in the Grand Bahama market, which recorded a 52.0% surge in sea arrivals, while air visitors rose by 5.2%. Total tourists to New Providence also rose marginally by 0.7% as the 9.8% expansion in air arrivals offset the 4.1% decline in sea visitors.

However, on the other hand overall Family Island visitors contracted by 11.1%, reflecting a 12.7% rise in air arrivals, which was outweighed by a 15.4% contraction in the more dominant sea arrivals. Further, data for the first four months of the year revealed a 3.3% decrease in total visitors to The Bahamas to 1.8 million, due to weakened trends in the cruise segment.

Additionally, total arrivals declined in New Providence (4.6%) and the Family Islands (8.0%), outstripping a 15.3% gain in the Grand Bahama market, officials said.

By: Tameka Lundy, The Bahama Journal

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