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Just in case Canadians had forgotten The Bahamas during the pandemic, the country’s tourist board delivered a taste of the islands to Canada this week in its first major trade mission since before COVID. “We’re bringing the Bahamas to you,” Deputy Prime Minister I. Chester Cooper enthused to a VP trade audience Tuesday night in Toronto as traditional junkanoo dancers gyrated through the room. And he added quickly, “But we also want to bring you to the Bahamas.”

Indeed, the central theme of the mission, which also had a stop in Calgary this week, welcomed about 300 travel agents at another Toronto-area event Wednesday, and calls in Montreal tonight (Thursday), was “The Bahamas is open for business.”

Cooper (who doubles as tourism minister) and deputy director-general of tourism Dr. Kenneth Romer noted that all COVID entry restrictions to the islands have been removed making it easy for all visitors travel there – not least Canadians who can get there in as little as two-and-half hours from Canadian gateways “with a good tail wind.”

And with ample airlift from this country this winter, including Air Canada, WestJet and Sunwing, to not only Nassau-Paradise Island, but Out Island destinations such as Freeport, Grand Bahama (starting Dec. 17), plus San Salvador (supporting a new Club Med on the island), The Bahamas really is a “multiple destination within a destination” boasting a wide variety of experiences that can be found across the 16 islands (among hundreds) that can be reached by travellers, says Romer.

From swimming with rays and the famous pigs on his home island of Exuma to festivals and cultural events, hiking, cycling, fishing, diving, and the nightlife of Nassau, Cooper maintains The Bahamas is a multi-faceted experience that goes beyond simply sun, sand and sea. And coupled with its remarkably friendly people, he says, “We like to think we’re the greatest little country in the world.”

Sunwing’s David Wright and Lorraine Brisbois, with Bahamas’ deputy PM Chester Cooper, Mrs. Cooper, Paul Strachan, and Dr. Kenneth Romer

While Canada has lagged a little in visitations to the islands this year, in part due lingering COVID restrictions that were only fully lifted Oct. 1, The Bahamas nevertheless is on pace to match or exceed 2019 – a record year – in arrivals in 2022. Romer cites WTTC stats showing the Caribbean leading the world in tourism recovery this year, and The Bahamas leading the region.

Still, Canada remains the No. 2 source market for The Bahamas (behind the US), comprising about 8% of total visitations – a figure Cooper told Travel Industry Today he envisions rising to about 10%, not least through opportunities the tourist board sees from Western Canada.

As Canadians return, they’ll see plenty of changes, particularly in Nassau, where a new US$300-million cruise port – expected to be completed by April – is totally transforming downtown.

Cooper says the government is also spending half a billion dollars on its airports, and more than $5 billion is being invested in tourism product, such as new hotels offerings like the Margaritaville Beach Resort (opened 2021), the fully renovated and recently opened Sandals Royal Bahamian, and The Goldwyn Resort, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World that is scheduled to open on a pristine stretch of Cable Beach with 81 studios, one- two- and three-bedroom suites on Feb. 1.

And with productive meetings with Canadian suppliers now in the books during its major week-long sales and marketing mission, Canadian visitors staying longer and spending more, and bookings for the winter looking positive, The Bahamas is “on stream to be better than before,” says Romer.

After all, he smiles, channeling the islands’ iconic tourism slogan, “It is better in the Bahamas.”

First published at Travel Industry Today

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