“We begin 2012 with the hope that this year will mark a distinct point of recovery and return to sustained growth for tourism in our region,” he said during the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Marketplace event on Sunday night at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in The Bahamas.
“We believe that early signs of improvement are evident. In The Bahamas, we saw a robust uptick in arrivals since November last. By a number of measures, this past December was particularly good for the fourteen major Nassau and Paradise Island hotels.
“For the second year in a row since the Great Recession, room occupancies, average daily rates and room rates were up last year. Perhaps most encouraging has been that visitors are spending longer periods with us and reporting improved levels of customer satisfaction.”
Ingraham said the successes in tourism are partly due to the steps that the government took to revamp the tourism product during the slowdown. He was referring to the redevelopment of the Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is a part of a $410 million three-phased upgrade and expansion project; the Airport Gateway Project; the Nassau harbour dredging project; the New Providence Road Improvement Project, among other infrastructural upgrades.
“Our infrastructural improvement campaign has had a double benefit. We are putting in place critical infrastructure that will have long term value. Secondly, we are creating employment and business opportunities during recessionary times. This has offset some of the fall-off in private sector activity,” Ingraham said.
The prime minster also noted that the $52 million harbour dredging project was repaid from incremental cruise passenger taxes in two years. He added that the incremental spending by new cruise passengers alone exceeds $40 million per year.
The harbour dredging project also produced the material needed to expand cargo port facilities at Arawak Cay. The port, which is still under construction, is expected to be operational by March.
Already cargo is being shipped to Arawak Cay instead. Ingraham noted that the removal of commercial cargo traffic from Bay Street will further enhance the ambiance of Nassau. Additionally, Ingraham said the completion of the historic straw market, which was destroyed by fire in 2001, has also added to the attractiveness of Bay Street.
“This essential work in the downtown area is being accomplished through strong a partnership between the public and private sectors. We have a renewed appreciation for this partnership, and the trend of rebranding hotel associations as hotel and tourism associations hints at a newfound appreciation for wider partnerships beyond hotels and throughout the region,” Ingraham continued.
In addition to the work in New Providence, Ingraham said necessary upgrades and infrastructural development is continuing in the Family Islands, to ensure that those islands are also well-positioned to benefit from the turnaround in the global economy.