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D’Aguilar: Average spend per visitor too low

  • Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Bahamasair Dionisio D’Aguilar delivers the keynote address at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s board of directors and membership meeting at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday.

  • Tourism industry representatives in attendance at the event. PHOTOS: AHVIA J. CAMPBELL

Senior Business Reporter

Published: Aug 11, 2017

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The Bahamas’ tourism industry has a “problem, and we have to figure out how to fix that problem”, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar told a room full of tourism stakeholders yesterday. They all agreed that the product is headed for trouble.

D’Aguilar told those members of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) that if this country’s tourism product isn’t fixed in five years, The Bahamas could start to lose thousands of tourists.

And the tourism minister sought to explain that the problem with the country’s tourism numbers, which have not grown substantially in 20 years, is that the average spend per visitor is far lower than it used to be. He said the sector has placed too much attention on how many visitors have been coming to the country, when the focus should be on how much they spend while in the country.

He said 88 percent of the country’s tourism dollars come from the stopover segment of the market. D’Aguilar noted that cruise ship visitors spend only about $69 while in port.

According to his statistics, on one Caribbean island, the spend per cruise ship passenger was $200. The minister insisted that The Bahamas is doing something very wrong, as it is far more dependent on tourism than some of its Caribbean neighbors.

“Caribbean tourism has grown twice as fast as in The Bahamas,” said D’Aguilar.

He added that The Bahamas has to focus on the economic value of arrivals and aggregate spend. Because of the decrease in spend in the tourism industry, The Bahamas’ economy has not been growing.

“We have a problem, and we have to figure out how to fix that problem,” the tourism minister noted.

D’Aguilar said recently that he wants to see a 15 percent increase in African Americans travelling to The Bahamas in the short term. The African American travel market is worth $60 billion, he said.

According to D’Aguilar, the United States makes up 78 percent of the 6 million tourists who visit this country each year, but he lamented that the country has not captured enough of the African American market.

“I want to speak about the importance of the African American market to The Bahamas and the strong historical and cultural bonds that connect African Americans and the people of The Bahamas, a connection that makes the African American market a natural fit and perfect niche market for tourism in The Bahamas,” D’Aguilar said.

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