The Ministry of Tourism is seeking to attract up to 1.8 million stopover visitors in 2013 by cultivating new markets in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Obie Wilchcombe, the minister of tourism, announced yesterday that a number of meetings are scheduled with representatives from these markets, many of which have expressed an active interest in The Bahamas. His comments came at press conference ahead of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2013, beginning on January 20 at Atlantis.
Wilchcombe believes that opening up the country’s borders to emerging markets will be the key to attracting a greater level of airlift.
“We have a series of meetings going on now here and abroad with possible interests coming into The Bahamas. We are trying to put in place a strategic plan that will generate growth. The emerging markets are showing an interest. We need to open our borders to make sure that The Bahamas is getting some of that business,” according to Wilchcombe.
In addition to Europe, Asia and Latin America, Wilchcombe shared with Guardian Business plans to strengthen the tourism sector’s stronghold in North America.
“The North American market has been our bread and butter for years, so we will continue to go after that. We are looking at Asia and of course Latin America. If we have all of these areas servicing The Bahamas in a strategic way, then we will be able to plan for this year and beyond,” he explained.
“So if that means more business out of Europe, then we have to do it. If we are talking about Asia, then we will have to do that too. In fact, I received a note yesterday from the United Nations on their concerns about the growth of Chinese business to the Caribbean. They have invited themselves to The Bahamas for further discussions about the possibility of airlift from those destinations.”
The last time The Bahamas saw more than one million stopover visitors in a year was in 2008. However, Wilchcombe is working aggressively to change that in 2013.
“We are seeking to attract a greater level of airlift and our overall goal is to increase the number of stopover visitors in 2013. We envision ending the year with 1.6 to 1. 8 million stopovers, which would be the best stopover year for us since 2008 when we ended with more than 1.3 million,” he said.
“We don’t want to find ourselves working on one year. We want to have a short, medium and long-term plan that allows for continuous growth that will allow people who are considering building more hotel rooms to have the incentives to do so.”
The tourism minister also confirmed to Guardian Business that the ministry is currently in negotiations to host a number of events, all in an effort to generate more business for the country.
“We’re still seeing slow months in the year, so strategically we have to find a formula that allows for August to November. Right now, we are in negotiations to have a number of events and conferences held here in The Bahamas over that period that were not on the table before. So we are looking at other places to get business,” he added.
The Nassau Guardian
Published: January 10, 2013