By Alexander Britell
It’s no secret that tourism in The Bahamas is hot — but what’s different right now is the sheer diversity of the growth.
The Bahamas posted a blistering 16.7 percent increase in stayover visitor arrivals last year, easily among the biggest numbers in the Caribbean region.
And that growth unsurprisingly was felt in the country’s primary tourism hub of Nassau and Paradise Island.
Indeed, the major hotels in Nassau and Paradise Island saw a 34 percent increase in room revenues last year, gains not seen in the last decade, according to new data from the Ministry of Tourism.
““This is welcomed, heart warming news, at a time when we are endeavoring to drive our nation’s economy into higher gear,” said Bahamas Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.
But that growth also included a sizzling 9.1 percent increase in overall visitor arrivals to Grand Bahama — along with a 14.9 percent jump in land and sea arrivals in the Out Islands of The Bahamas.
It’s part of a coalescence across the destination, from a strong surge in new airlift, more strategic brand positioning and a coming of age of sorts for the Baha Mar megaresort on New Providence’s Cable Beach, each factor strengthening the other.
“Over the last eighteen months, we have had several top brand hotels come on stream, namely the full opening of Baha Mar with its signature brands, the Rosewood, the Grand Hyatt and SLS,” D’Aguilar said. “The increased room inventory has generated increased airlift.”
It’s growth that seems well positioned to continue, with development and buzz only strengthening across the destination.
That’s led, of course, by what’s happening in downtown Nassau, where the $250 million Margaritaville development (part of the larger The Pointe project) has accompanied a full-fledged renaissance of the area’s historic quarter buoyed in large part by the growing footprint of the Graycliff Hotel and its Heritage Village.
Paradise Island, too, continues to solidify its gains, from the entry several years ago of the Warwick adults-only all-inclusive to a revamped Riu hotel to a wave of redevelopment and upgrades at Atlantis Paradise Island, long the destination’s major center of gravity. Not to mention a huge redevelopment of the Hurricane Hole Marina already in the works.
And there’s more on the way, from a major new cruise port redevelopment in Nassau to a five-star project on the pristine shores of Long Island called Port St George — and Richard Branson’s plans to turn a stretch of beach in Bimini into a happening cruise port for his new Virgin Voyages brand.
Indeed, Bimini, just 50 miles from the coast of Miami, has been seeing its own growth in recent years thanks to the Resorts World Bimini project and traditional properties like the Bimini Big Game Club).
Plainly, the Bahamas is hot — and it’s only getting hotter.