NASSAU’S ‘INCREDIBLE’ YEAR: And its new Canadian connections
It’s been an “incredible” year for Nassau Paradise Island (NPI), from the opening of the city’s spectacular new cruise port to a Golden Jubilee, plus landmark hotel happenings and record arrivals. And in Canada, the return of representation for the NPI Promotion Board, which has “ambitious” goals for the destination in this country.
“We are, of course, the closest Caribbean destination to Toronto, and anywhere in Canada, and I think it it’s really time to establish that,” says promotion board CEO Joy Jibrilu.
“The rebound (from the pandemic) has been so strong, it’s now over 8 million arrivals (to the Bahamas),” she adds, telling Travel Industry Today that Canadians represent 8.1% of that total – which makes Canada NPI’s second largest market (after the US) and one that is poised to surpass its totals of last year (having already reached 96% by October and forecast to be over 30% ahead in December, year over year).
Other markets are even further ahead, Jibrilu noted.
And with hotel occupancy surpassing pre pandemic figures this year – and at higher daily room rates – the CEO says, “from an economic perspective this has been a banner year.”
Leading the way has been cruise arrivals – a “tremendous uptick” – that corresponds to the opening of the new $300-million Nassau cruise port on May 27, which has allowed larger cruise ships to dock in the destination.
With such robust arrivals, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board reintroduced representation in Canada (which had lapsed during the pandemic), re-engaging Newmarket, Ont.-based Canlink Travel Representatives.
“We’re so excited to have Elaine and Brent (Carnegie) back with us,” Jibrilu says. “When you think how important Canada is to us – 8.1% is a lot, it’s about 350 passengers a day coming to us from Canada.”
And, she adds, “we see such potential,” noting that Air Canada has had to up gauge it’s plane size from Toronto.
Also on the radar is growing the markets in Montreal and Calgary (served by WestJet).
Jibrilu adds that the introduction earlier last week (Dec. 15) of three times weekly Alaska Airlines service from Seattle to Nassau will make travel from Vancouver and the West Coast easier.
“We expect to see growth there – this is huge for us!” she says, and to that end, NPI will be doing plenty of promotion in Vancouver.
And “with so much opportunity in Canada,” Jibrilu continues, “it was important for us to re- establish ties in Canada… Canlink knows us, they know the destination, they represented us well. It felt like coming back home, someone who knows the NPI Promotion Board, and who has those partnerships and relationships; it was just a seamless re-commencement of the relationship.”
Another key to NPI achieving growth in Canada will continue to be its partnerships with Air Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and WestJet (Calgary and Toronto seasonally). Sunwing also flies into Grand Bahama.
The latter represents Canadians’ affinity for Bahamas Out Islands, and Jibrilu says many vacationers combine a visit to places like Grand Bahama and Exuma with their stays in NPI.
“And that’s the way we like to treat it,” she says. “Whether it’s casinos and a bit of cosmopolitan life in Nassau and Paradise Island, and then going on to have a bit of rest and relaxation in the Out Islands, we work with our partners to promote this dual (destination) stopover. We find that’s the vacation of choice for many Canadians, and we encourage it.”
But for all its Out Island options, visitors to NPI – whether by plane or ship – will discover a destination that has been totally transformed, not least by the new cruise port.
“That’s a big part of it and it’s absolutely wonderful,” Jibrilu says of the facility, which has the capacity to accommodate three Oasis-class vessels simultaneously.
A “destination within itself,” it also boasts such attractions as a Junkanoo Museum – an immersive experience that shares the story of the destination’s national cultural festival; plus, event and entertainment spaces including an art gallery and 3,500 amphitheatre; living coral exhibit; new food and beverage facilities; and 40 retail spaces featuring authentically Bahamian products.
As such, she says, the cruise port is a hub for all visitors to Nassau-Paradise Island, not just those arriving by ship.
And, she adds, “We hope it will be the catalyst for even more transformation of downtown” – such as extension of the new boardwalk all the way from the bridge to Paradise Island for about two miles past the cruise terminal to Junkanoo Beach and Arawak Cay.
Beyond bustling Baha Mar, and the iconic Atlantis, Nassau has also seen the openings of several smaller boutique hotels this year, which particularly appeal to Canadian sensibilities, says Jibrilu. Notable among them is the Goldwyn Resort, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World that inhabits a pristine stretch of Cable Beach with 81 studios, and one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites.
Other hotel developments include the opening of the Margaritaville Beach Resort (2021), and the recently re-opened fully renovated Sandals Royal Bahamian.
And reopening this week (Dec. 18) following a multi-million-dollar transformation is the historic British Colonial. Exuding a renewed sense of island-inspired sophistication, guests will find a redesigned lobby, seven food and beverage outlets, and 288 completely renovated guest rooms and suites.
Nassau-Paradise Island is also still basking in the 50th anniversary of the Bahamas independence from Britain on July 10, having been the epicentre of festivities and events that included a rousing Junkanoo on Bay Street as both residents and visitors danced and paraded into the morning.
Jibrilu promises that there’s plenty more to come in NPI and that the destination will continue to evolve in 2024. That includes new partnership developments, like an arts and culinary festival introduced at Baha Mar, while Atlantis will stage a four-day wine and culinary event next March. “These signature events are making it so worthwhile that people will travel (for it),” she says.
Baja Mar is also adding a 5,000-sq.-ft. children’s centre to complement its recently opened water park.
And NPI will continue its sustainability responsibilities – having created, as an example, the “Coral is Calling” program, which enables snorkelers and scuba divers to replant coral while they swim.
“These are the kinds of initiatives that we will continue to explore and provide for people who want to travel, and travel for good as well,” says Jibrilu.
After all, she concludes, “Nassau is a destination that cherishes it’s history, but it also looks to the future.”
First published at Travel Industry Today