U.S. President Barack Obama’s new travel and tourism legislation, introduced to strengthen that nation’s tourism product, may be turning results sooner than expected – with Bahamas arrivals to the U.S. for the first seven months of 2010 up by 13 percent, contributing to the $77 billion spent in that economy up to July.
Total visits from the Caribbean, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, were up by 5 percent for the year and The Bahamas accounted for almost one-quarter of the region’s total visits to the neighboring country.
“Visitation from the Caribbean decreased five percent in July but grew five percent for the year,” said the statement. “Visits from The Bahamas, the region’s top market, accounting for 20 percent of all visits, increased nine percent in July 2010. Year-to-date visits from The Bahamas increased 13 percent.”
Obama’s Travel Promotion Act seeks to promote the United States as a tourism and travel destination all over the world. The legislation is a part of an Obama goal to double exports in the next five years, with that government waiving visa requirements from participating countries to encourage U.S. travel.
The U.S. has recorded its seventh consecutive month of growth in the U.S. travel and tourism market. It’s the kind of growth that could put a dent in the Ministry of Tourism’s efforts to increase domestic tourism. A long-standing complaint from Bahamians is that it is just too expensive to vacation at home, something the Ministry of Tourism has been trying to change. Among the promotions targeting those domestic travel dollars is a companion fly-free program centered on showing locals the luxuries of vacationing at home. One of the promotion’s goals was to help drive arrivals into the Family Islands, said Tourism officials, and they have reported some signs of success.
“There was a campaign underway to entice Bahamians to travel to the Family Islands in particular,” said the Bahamas Hotel Association’s Executive Vice-president Frank Comito. “It resonated with some folks, we had some positive responses where some Bahamians took advantage of it and we think it was a good foundation.
Obama new travel and tourism-related legislation will see that country strengthen its tourism product – a plan not only centered on going after Bahamian travelers themselves, but also the same target markets as The Bahamas.
But therein lies the issue: What’s good for America – boosting its tourism dollars – is not good for The Bahamas. This country already relies heavily on tourism for revenue and increased competition from the world’s economic power house may not bode well for an already-struggling tourism product.