05 MAR 2018: "Bahamas is hot right now," the Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Dionisio D'Aguilar told a full house of travel partners and media at a lunch presentation recently hosted by the Government Ministry and the Bahamas Tourist Office.  

The destination has been undergoing an onslaught of infrastructure development programs with plans to refurbish the cruise port in Nassau, modernization of four airports on the Family Islands as The Bahamas' less developed outer islands are known, and a business improvement district in downtown Nassau to revive the Bay Street streetscape.

With The Bahamas' hottest newest development - the Baha Mar, a $4.2-billion mega resort in the heart of Nassau which due to some lengthy setbacks finally opened last year, government officials report the luxury hub has spurred additional hotel developments and other massive-scale projects that have arguably made The Bahamas the hottest destination in the Caribbean.

Baha Mar: Playground for Adults

Baha Mar, noted Joy Jibrilu, Director General with The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation who worked tirelessly for 12 years on the mega tourism development in her previous role at the Bahamas Investment Authority, saw the grand scale project as a personal investment.

"I liken it to a pregnancy that I could not deliver," she recounted on the 2017 soft opening of Baha Mar which includes three luxury hotel brands like the, "1800 and one room" Grand Hyatt Baha Mar now opened, home to the largest convention centre in the Caribbean, a flagship spa, and a casino. The 299-room SLS Baha Mar luxe hotel which debuted in November appeals to a young, trendy chic clientele. The 233-room Rosewood meanwhile is scheduled to open in late spring.

"Every FAM trip they have had, the feedback has been, 'it has surpassed expectations,'" she said of the Baha Mar resort and added, "We have seen every other property, not just in Nassau and Paradise Island, but throughout the archipelago, they have literally taken stock."

All-Inclusive Trends

For years, the Director General says The Bahamas was associated with the luxury market but The Islands now has introduced more all-inclusive brands. "Diversity is a key," she said of the two new offerings in the heart of downtown Nassau. Clients can choose the 3-star Courtyard by Marriott Nassau Downtown and across the road the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. "We have not had these chains in Bahamas before."

More Nassau and Paradise Island hotel updates

The Atlantis Paradise Island has completed a major renovation. Atlantis sells multi-island destinations giving clients a chance to visit The Abacos, The Exumas and Harbour Island by boat for an authentic Outer Island experience.

Coral Towers, which closed for one year, has been completely renovated and is geared for multi-generational family fun.

The Cove Atlantis tips its hat to authentic Bahamian incorporating Bahamian touches like new food encounters with the first outpost location of the popular Sip Sip restaurant from Harbour Island.

Hotel RIU Palace Paradise Island has undergone major upgrades and is a new all-inclusive adults' only property.

Sandyport Beach Resort on Cable Beach has consistently been voted gold service awards by TripAdvisor. "As an option it is loved and has the highest repeat visitors than any other property in Nassau," said Jibrilu.

Future Hotel Developments

Construction at The Pointe, a $250-million, 6-acre development is in the heart of downtown. The Minister, who recently took a site tour of the 150-room two-tower luxury complex, said one tower is under the Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville brand while another tower will have 150 luxury residences. A waterpark, entertainment centre and a 45-slip marina will be other features. Completion date: late 2019.

Jack's Bay, a new private club in South Eleuthera is a partnership with golf legend Tiger Woods who is involved in a new signature 10-hole golf course with future plans for an 18-hole golf course. "This is a Bahamian owner who has dreamed this and was years in planning," noted the Minister.

We are Open for Business

On the subject of the hurricanes which touched down in the Caribbean last year, The Islands with the exception of the sparsely populated southern Bahamas were virtually unscathed. The Minister pointed out his team took quick action to make numerous media announcements messaging, The Bahamas were unaffected by the hurricane. "We are open and were always open," he explained.

Canadian boost Despite a slow third quarter recorded last year, Canadian visitation shows a 24.7 percent increase to this archipelago of 700 islands and 3000 cays. Ministry forecasts indicate in the first seven months this year Canadian arrivals are expected to jump 23.9 percent in January while in July a 34.2 percent increase is expected. Last year airline seat capacity for the period February-July in Toronto alone was up 26.6 percent.

The Minister along with the Director General acknowledged the success of the second largest source market to the Bahamas, which can be attributed to the partnerships with key partners such as Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge and Air Canada Vacations; Travel Brands; WestJet and WestJet Vacations; and Sunspots Holidays.

In addition, the strong marketing programme delivered by the BTO in which the Minister gave a shout out to Paul Strachan, Senior Director of BTO Canada, and his team will be rolling out a robust marketing campaign soon to snag even more Canadian sun seekers.


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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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