From January through July, the Bahamas has seen tourism visits even higher than the most optimistic projections, putting the country on track for more than 8 million visitors for 2023.
Included in the totals are the busiest year ever on record for tourism in the Bahamas, with corresponding increases in spending that bolster the local economy.
The Bahamas has welcomed more than 5.89 million guests in the first seven months of 2023. Of those visitors, just over 80% arrived via sea, including ferries, yachts, private sailings, and of course, cruise ships.
The Port of Nassau – newly updated, revitalized, and expanded – welcomed the greatest number of cruise guests, followed by Royal Caribbean International’s private island destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay. Bimini, Half Moon Cay, Freeport, and Castaway Cay also brought in tremendous numbers of cruise visitors.
According to the official data, cruise arrivals for the first seven months of the year are up 72.1% over the first seven months of 2022, as well as 43% higher than the corresponding months in 2019, when the Bahamas saw historically high cruise arrival numbers.
“We are seeing record arrivals, because we have all worked together to resuscitate our tourism industry, coming out of the pandemic, and, because we continue to improve our tourism product,” said the Honorable I. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation.
“The stronger than expected results speak to vibrancy of The Bahamas’ brand, methodical business strategies and the hard work of tourism industry professionals and stakeholders,” Cooper explained.
Deeper investigation of visitor trends to the Bahamas reveals some surprising details. In total, 70% of stopover visitors are vacationing, with 90% of visitors coming from the US. This demographic is not unexpected, as the capital city of the Bahamas, Nassau, is just 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Miami.
This makes the Bahamas a very convenient short getaway for many travelers. In fact, cruise lines offer Bahamas sailings from all five major Florida cruise ports: PortMiami, Port Everglades, Port Tampa Bay, Port Canaveral, and Jaxport.
The small boutique cruise line Margaritaville at Sea also offers Bahamas visits on 2-night sailings from the Port of Palm Beach, bringing even more guests to the tropical destination.
While most visitors to the Bahamas are from the US, Canadian, European, and Latin American guests are also on the rise, returning to pre-pandemic levels.
While the figures for the first seven months of 2023 are impressive, even more visitor growth is expected in the Bahamas for the rest of the year and the years to come.
“With a better developed downtown to complement the new cruise port and added destinations within The Bahamas coming on stream, the numbers will only continue to grow, if we continue to deliver great service and experiences,” said Cooper.
Upcoming cruise developments in the Bahamas include the massive revitalization of MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve in early 2024, as well as expansion at CocoCay that will increase that destination’s capacity for visitors.
Furthermore, new developments will bring even more cruise visitors to different islands in the Bahamas. Disney Cruise Line is currently developing Lighthouse Point, a 700-acre destination slated to debut in the summer of 2024 on Eleuthera, east of New Providence Island where Nassau is located.
Similarly, Royal Caribbean International is developing its new Royal Beach Club resort on Paradise Island, a stone’s throw from the existing cruise port that services Nassau.
Carnival Cruise Line is also developing Celebration Key, a new destination under construction on Grand Bahama island approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Freeport.
With so many new developments in the Bahamas, even more cruise ships will be able to visit the tropical paradise without overcrowding individual destinations.
Furthermore, each new project includes at least some focus on native Bahamian culture, local wildlife, and natural beauty, bringing more awareness and attention to the unique culture of the region and all it offers for every visitor.
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