Tourism Suffering Despite Promos and Incentives

Earnest efforts and promotions to attract visitors to countries in the Caribbean region, including the Bahamas, have so far failed in bringing the number of tourists to our shores to match last year's numbers, Prime Minister Ingraham revealed.

Speaking at the Regional Forum on the Occasion of the Inter-American Development Bank's 50th Anniversary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Friday, Mr Ingraham said that despite serious discounting and other incentives offered in the travel and hotel deals, occupancy levels remain well below those achieved last year by all of the Caribbean tourism economies.

And on the employment front, he said, to date the economic downturn has resulted in 2,200 lay-offs in the Bahamas' hotel sector, which amounts to one per cent of the country's entire work force.

Mr Ingraham said that the Bahamas was one of the first countries in the region to feel the effects of the slowing global economy.

"Those countries that rely heavily on the North American market as a source for their visitors, like the Bahamas, were impacted earlier. But as the global economic downturn enveloped Western European and Asian markets, all Caribbean tourism economies, like those of Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, have suffered widespread retrenchment," he said.

The impact of the decline in visitor numbers, Mr Ingraham said, "is being felt in all tourism related businesses including food and beverage, beach sports, handicraft and souvenir sales, ground transportation, land and sea excursions and tours, luxury shopping and entertainment."

"And suppliers to the sector are similarly severely negatively impacted," he said.

Furthermore, the impact of the economic crisis on the Caribbean and the Bahamas has resulted in the slowdown in new construction of hotels and resorts, vacation homes, other businesses and commercial buildings, the prime minister said.

"As in more developed economies, construction serves as a bell-we gather for the state of the economies of small Caribbean economies," he said.

"The slowdown in construction in our region has signalled reduced foreign direct investment inflows with implications for foreign reserves. Inevitably, the slowdown in important economic section is contributing to an increase in unemployment."

The tourism sector provides employment for thousands of independent entrepreneurs who make good incomes from the industry.

"The vast majority of these small business operators have seen their iW.comes reduced, some drastically," Mr Ingraham said.

"Such shedding of high wage earning labour is likely to have a downward multiplier effect on other sectors as a result of the fall in aggregate demand."

The Bahamian economy is expected to contract by 3.9 per cent.

Christine Thompson, Chief economist in the Office of the Prime Minister, and Louis Harold Joseph, Ambassador to the Bahamas from the Republic of Haiti, accompanied the prime minister to the forum which focused on the "Economic Transformation and Strengthening of the Caribbean Economies in Challenging Times".

Source: The Tribune