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Bahamian economy rebounding due to tourism trade increase and government support
Monday, 02 April 2012 18:00

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The Bahamas is starting to see an economic recovery with major indicators trending up on the back of stronger tourism arrivals mostly from the traditional North American market.

“The economy is on the mend, with tourism arrivals significantly up,” said Tourism and Aviation Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace. He reported that for the first two months of 2012, air arrivals are up by 11.9% in Nassau and Grand Bahama has shown an increase of 16.8%.  “The increase in arrivals indicates higher spending and is beneficial to all businesses,” said the Minister.

The Bahamas has welcomed more than 5 million visitors per year, for two consecutive years. Vanderpool-Wallace noted that this landmark achievement distinguishes The Bahamas as the only country in the region to ever receive more than 5 million visitors per year. He remarked that given the increase in arrivals evident in the first quarter of 2012, he is optimistic that the five million visitors mark will be surpassed again this year.

Minster Vanderpool-Wallace reported that sea arrivals in January 2012 are up by 13.1% for Nassau and Paradise Island, indicating a significant upward trend on that front. Last year, cruise passengers to Nassau exceeded 3 million for the first time in history as a direct result of the agreement Government negotiated with the cruise lines two years ago. He expects these numbers to be achieved again in 2012.

The early figures for 2012 are positive indicators for the coming months, with the industry analysts predicting a further increase of 6 to 7 % in arrivals for the second quarter of 2012 and continuing to increase through December.

The figures reported by hoteliers so far this year are positive. The increase in tourism arrivals resulted in many operators being sold out through the spring, or at higher occupancy levels than this time last year.

According to preliminary statistics released by the Bahamas Hotel Association and The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the February results exceeded expectations. The major New Providence hotels recorded a 70% occupancy rate for February 2012 compared to 64.4% a year earlier. Eleven properties showed increases in room revenue, with nine of them showing double digit increases.

The rise of tourism arrivals spells good news for private sector employment as well.

Atlantis, which is the largest private sector employer in the country, added 306 new jobs and hired an additional 250 temporary staff in the past year alone.

On the issue of job creation, Prime Minister Ingraham remarked on the investments the FNM Government has made in job creation programmes and other initiatives designed to stimulate the economy. He noted that despite having gone through the worst global economic downturn in 80 years, jobs are being created in The Bahamas and we are seeing increased economic activity.

“We are creating the opportunity society so every Bahamian has a fair chance to realize their dreams through education, hard work and adequate support offered by the government, which is fostering an entrepreneurial climate in the country,” said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

Initiatives put in place by the government such as the National Job Readiness programme allowed 4,000 thousand Bahamians to engage in on-the-job training and secure employment. The Self Starters initiative provided 600 young Bahamian entrepreneurs with access to grants to start or develop a business. The success of this programme inspired the recent creation of Jump Start offering similar benefits to more experienced Bahamians.

“Entrepreneurs are very important to a country because they create jobs by acting on ideas and taking risks,” said Minister Tommy Turnquest, speaking as the FNM Campaign Spokesperson. “Providing seed money and support for local entrepreneurs is the right thing to do to boost trade and stimulate the economy,” he added.

Education is equally important to creating a sustainable basis for economic development. The government financed more then $25 million in merit scholarships for Bahamian students to attend the College of the Bahamas, and more in additional scholarship support for Bahamians studying abroad.

As part of its economic recovery package, the government also secured and safeguarded 20,000 jobs in the public sector by not engaging in widespread cuts during the height of the recession.

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