Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Efforts to Increase Tourism in The Bahamas Have Met Some Obstacles

The Bahama Journal: PM: Time For Action
The Tribune: Hotels Suffer 6.1% Percent Revenue Decline
The Tribune: Kerzner Chief: Rising Cost of Travel to Nassau Must Be Addressed

On April 25, 2011 Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Hubert Ingraham, addressed the residents of the nation’s capitol, Nassau, on the island of New Providence. Prime Minister Ingraham made this public address in response to the overwhelming residential and business complaints of the capitol’s residents and business owners to the New Providence Road Improvement Project (“NPRIP”). The project which has sought to modernize the 300 year old city of Nassau, includes the installation of new water mains along the city’s main roads in order to provide residents and tourists with improved water quality and water pressure. Additional road work includes improvement in water sewage and electrical upgrades for the residents and tourists of the city. The project also includes the extension of roads to newly created “open green spaces” and the Government High School. Completion of a grand four-lane highway that services major attractions and sectors of the island, such as popular tourist beaches and the airport, is also part of the program. However, the scope and ambitious nature of the project has began to wear on the residents and business owners of the affected areas, making it difficult for them to traverse to and from work and for customers to access businesses. In his address, Prime Minister Ingraham, assured residents and business owners that future construction of the NPRIP project will only occur during the off-peak hours of 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. However, the Prime Minister also made clear that construction efforts were a ways off from completion and would require the continued patience and support of Nassau residents and business owners. Besides providing the residents of Nassau with basic infrastructural needs, such as water pressure and improved electrical upgrades, Prime Minister Ingraham states that the modernization and aesthetic upgrades of the city, are needed to improve the tourist industry of the island, which accounts for 50% of Bahamian employment.

At the beginning of this year, the Central Bank of the Bahamas said the islands hotel industry saw a 6.1% decline in revenues due to low occupancy rates and low average daily room rates. Early assessment of the decline, accredited much of the revenue decline to bad weather following the Christmas season and the absence of a “Companion Fly Free” program previously offered by the Ministry of Tourism and member hotels during the months of January and February. Hotels quickly coordinated to re-implement the offer to travelers and saw an improvement in the subsequent month of March and April. However, whether or not the totality, or even the majority, of the decline in hotel revenues can be attributed solely to bad weather and the absence of a travel deal, has come into question with a recent discovery on airline service to The Bahamas.

President of the company that owns the Atlantis hotel in Nassau, George Markantonis, has recently spoken out about the dramatic increase of flight cost to The Bahamas from major origin points like Miami and LaGuardia as well as the dramatic decrease in the number of flights servicing The Bahamas. Flight costs in comparison to 2010, have increased by 28% for January, 41% for February and 27% for March. Additionally, the combined number of flights from all airline carriers servicing The Bahamas, has decreased by 16.3%. Kerzner International, the company that owns the Atlantis hotel in Nassau, is now planning to meet with airlines servicing The Bahamas to discuss the issue. Thus far there has been no comment by The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism on the issue, but with tourism generating 50% of Bahamian employment, it can be expected that one will issue soon. Whether the efforts made by Kerzner International to increase flight accessibility to The Bahamas, or the modernization efforts of Prime Minister Ingraham’s NPRIP project, will improve the tourist economy of Nassau is yet to be seen.

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