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They say that it’s “Better in the Bahamas” — and that’s just what the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board has set out to prove this year.
In June, key airline, tour operator, media and hotel representatives gathered for the annual International Travel Partners Conference held in Nassau, the Bahamas. The multiday event, presented by Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, celebrated the latest developments in the region, from an increase in visitation numbers to a robust hotel inventory that continues to grow and diversify.
“If you haven’t been to Nassau in the past two to three years, you really haven’t been here,” said Fred Lounsberry, CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board. “It’s changed dramatically. For instance, we have 25 percent more guestrooms than we had a year ago, and so many more unique experiences and things to do than other destinations in the Caribbean.”
The Bahamas reported a whopping 18 percent surge in stopover visitors in the first quarter of 2018, setting the pace for the fastest growth rate in the region. Lounsberry reports that, year to date, visits to the Bahamas were up 55 percent over the same time last year.
While visitation statistics were not cited for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which suffered significant hurricane damage in 2017, Lounsberry points out that both destinations have seen a decline in online searches this year. At the same time, online searches for “Nassau” and “Bahamas” have seen a double-digit growth year to date. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the Bahamas’ boost in popularity can be partly attributed to instability in the region caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Another factor is that the promotion board is spending more money than ever before, with an annual budget of approximately $25 million — more than half of which goes toward digital media, according to Lounsberry.
“One of our key strategies is video, and its influence is apparent,” Lounsberry said. “Video views drive same-month website visits and in turn drive next-month island visits. When you correlate the data and do regression analysis on video it is uncanny — this is how you drive visitation.”
Baha Mar Makes a Grand EntranceAfter years of complications and false starts, the $4.2 billion Baha Mar mega-development has unfurled the red carpet and is as grand as anyone could have imagined. Its amenities and features are vast, including an impressive fountain show that rivals Bellagio Las Vegas, with some 350 fountains that dance to pop hits while lasers and video projections dazzle onlookers. Other stand-out features include an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course; a full-time artist in residence program; the Caribbean’s first and only ESPA spa; the 10,000-square-foot Bond nightclub; restaurants that cater to a variety of tastes and price points; a 200,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor convention facility; and a world-class casino with an ocean view.
Baha Mar’s three brand-new hotels — Rosewood Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and SLS Baha Mar — add a stunning 2,336 rooms to the island. Prior to these back-to-back hotel openings, Paradise Island’s newest hotel had been Warwick Paradise Island Bahamas – All-Inclusive, which officially opened in late 2016 with 250 rooms and a private harbor beach.
Keeping It FreshWith name brands such as Rosewood and SLS staking their claim, competition in the Bahamas has been fierce. Quite simply, an inventory of fresh and exciting hotel product has forced the hand of the more established properties. In response, older properties have completed renovations, reimagined their brands and created even more reasons to attract new and repeat guests.
A case in point is Melia Nassau Beach Resort – All Inclusive, which shares the shores of Cable Beach with Baha Mar. Its $19 million renovation includes redesigned guestrooms that feature contemporary Caribbean style decor; upgrades to its three outdoor heated pools (one pool now offers a new adults-only experience); a stage for live entertainment and activities; and a state-of-the-art, 24-hour fitness center. The property, along with all hotels in the Melia Hotels International portfolio, has pledged to eliminate single-use plastics by the end of the year.
Indeed, the Bahamas is becoming more aware of the impact of plastic on the environment. In April, the Bahamas’ Minister of the Environment and Housing announced an initiative to ban single-use plastics by 2020. Seeing the hotel community work toward a solution even faster, however, is nothing short of encouraging.
Atlantis Paradise Island, too, has also vowed to eliminate plastic straws by next year. In addition, the internationally recognized, 24-year-old property has been busy reinvesting and reconceptualizing the guest experience. The property’s new slogan “Bahamas at Heart” hopes to place the focus back on the people and culture of the Bahamas so that guests feel that they have a more authentic Bahamian experience at Atlantis than in the past.
To that end, each Friday, guests are invited to learn the history of Junkanoo, the famous street parade of the Bahamas filled with music, dance and costumes of Akan origin. Guests enjoy an authentic Bahamian meal, learn about traditions from a Junkanoo historian, take a dance lesson and help create colorful costumes. Atlantis also recently launched Art Walk, a biweekly market where guests can support local Bahamian artisans as well as sample locally grown and made products. Other new additions include local favorite McKenzie’s Conch Shack; craft-beer maker Pirate Republic Brewery; Fish by Jose Andres; and Frankie Gone Bananas, a casual Bahamian eatery that cut its chops at Nassau’s Fish Fry. Later this month, Atlantis will unveil the $21 million transformation of the 609-room Coral at Atlantis.
What’s more, the Bahamas now has a Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts property. Last year, Four Seasons assumed management of legendary Caribbean beach resort, The Ocean Club, following major upgrades to the property. Now known as The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, the hotel offers a new oceanfront pool and has completely redesigned The Hartford Courtyard. Additionally, all guestrooms and suites in the The Hartford Wing were increased by 110 square feet, offering expansive terraces or balconies.
Comfort Suites Paradise Island is fresh off an $11 million refurbishment, and still offers value to families. Guests receive complimentary access to Atlantis’ Aquaventure waterpark and are treated to refreshed guestrooms. Other updates include refurbished meeting rooms, an enhanced lobby area, a revamped pool deck and renovations to Crusoe’s Restaurant.
More to ComeIf you think that the Bahamas has a wealth of options to sell now, just wait until next year when The Pointe, a $250 million project, will start rolling out product in downtown Nassau. It will include the 150-room Margaritaville Beach Resort, a 45-slip marina, 24,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, eight restaurants and bars, a water park and a yacht club. The Pointe is expected to contribute approximately $750 million to Bahamian GDP over 20 years.
“This has been one of the best years the Bahamas has had in a number of years,” said Ellison Thompson, deputy director general of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, during the conference. “We appreciate your business and want to work with you to get even more.”
The DetailsNassau Paradise Island Promotion Boardwww.nassauparadiseisland.com