Tourist Air Arrivals Increase By Three Per Cent

The Bahamas saw air arrivals increase by 3 per cent year-over-year in the last four months of 2009, indicating a recovery in the high-spending stopover market may be starting, although the figures were up against weak 2008 comparatives.

This nation also saw a 5.9 per cent increase in total visitors for 2009, notwithstanding the 10.1 per cent air arrivals reduction and sharp drop-off in corporate group business that has persisted into 2010, something that could signal the arrival of the largest number of leisure travellers in Bahamian history, the Minister of Tourism and Aviation said yesterday.

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said increased marketing, airlift and special promotions pulled the Bahamas' air arrivals out of their nose dive caused by the recession, saving the latter half of 2009 from being the "kind of annus horribilis that many thought it would be."

Mr Vanderpool-Wallace noted that the Government's companion airfare deal had been popular, and the increase in airline seats to the Bahamas, with the addition of several well-known bargain airlines, has opened the market to deal seekers.

"Well, we created last year and advertised 'companion fly free' or 'two for one airfare', as some of our partners have dubbed it, and it has been selling like hot cakes," he said.

"I am advised that over an eight-week selling period, approximately 9,000 bookings representing some 35,000 room nights have been generated, with the pace of bookings still going very strong.

"The pace has been so strong that our joint private-public sector team has agreed to extend the offer throughout the full year of 2010, even though we agreed initially to end the offer on March 3.

"In the middle of all of this, traffic on is reaching all-time highs, with some monthly increases of over 56 per cent since the beginning of our offers."

The Bahamas's air arrivals declined by 10.1 per cent last year as a result of the recession in the US, and the reluctance of corporate entities to hold meetings overseas following the financial bailout of several large firms.

Major resorts such as Atlantis depend on group travel to fill rooms, but group arrivals are not expected to fully recover this year.

Atlantis's chief executive and president, George Markantonis, said he expects strong bookings to return into 2011, but remains hopeful for 2010.

Mr Vanderpool-Wallace touted the marketing and exposure the Bahamas had received from the Miss Universe Competition as a significant reason behind a spike in Latin American visitors to this country.

He said many resort workers have inquired about foreign language classes they say they need to better serve a growing number of non-English speaking visitors.

"Since the hosting of Miss Universe, an increasing number of front line workers are asking for the assistance of my Ministry with the provision of foreign language classes for them to be able to better serve the growing number of customers they have been attending who do not speak English as a first language" said Mr Vanderpool-Wallace. "And we are making it happen."

Source: The Tribune