Bahamas Tourism Rebounds with Surge in Arrivals

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The Bahamas has been enjoying a substantial increase in tourism in 2023 as holidaymakers flock to this sunny island nation, with visitor levels reaching pre-pandemic numbers, including nearly 6 million cruise travelers that make up the bulk of the guests in the Bahamas.

Tourism Resurgence in the Bahamas

The Bahamas — a Caribbean nation comprised of around 700 islands, cays (sandy islands laying atop coral reefs), and islets — is experiencing a strong revival of its tourism sector with the numbers of visitors reaching levels not seen since 2019, before the global pandemic wreaked havoc on the tourism industry.

The Ministry of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation confirmed that from January to September of 2023 (the initial three quarters), more than 7 million (7,209,165) visitors arrived in the Bahamas by air and sea, with close to 6 million (5,876,413) arriving by sea alone. These combined numbers add up to a 33 percent increase compared to 2019.

“Our tourism performance in 2023 has been spectacular on two fronts. We have surpassed the tourism benchmark year of 2019 across all metrics, and our visitor arrival numbers are a resounding indication of a complete post-pandemic rebound,” said Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism for the Bahamas.

Nassau Cruise Port Upgrade
Photo Credit: ENKA

This strong performance places the country on track to surpass 8 million visitors overall this year. Hotel occupancy rates, to accommodate all of these visitors, have also outperformed 2019, with a notable increase in room rates and revenue – along with onshore visitor expenditures — reported as well. 

Cruise ship arrivals from January to September 2023 soared by 61 percent compared to 2022, marking a substantial 45 percent increase from 2019, which is great news for cruise-related businesses and services on the islands.

“We have some of the most attractive cruise destinations in the region, with the new Port of Nassau making waves on social media and throughout the travel sector,” Cooper pointed out. “Nassau, Bimini, the Berry Islands, Half Moon Cay, and other destinations have seen remarkable growth in cruise arrivals in the past two years, with more visitors coming off the ships and spending more time onshore.”

Foreign air arrivals (final destinations, stopovers, and day visitors) swelled by 21 percent compared to the same period in 2022, which also demonstrates a robust recovery for the country’s tourism sector.

Furthermore, stopover visitors alone (as recorded through September 2023) are on the verge of equaling the total number of stopover visitors recorded for the same period in 2019 – with three months still to tally for the annual total.

Whether people arrive by air or sea, it seems the Bahamas is big on travelers’ bucket lists of holiday destinations to visit in the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships in Nassau, Bahamas
Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt / Shutterstock

Good News for Nassau Cruise Port

Nassau Cruise Port has also reported positive news and numbers related to the tourism industry in 2023, feeding into the encouraging trend of increased visits to this small and very sunny nation witnessed so far this year.

During the first nine months of 2023 — up to and through September — Nassau Cruise Port saw an impressive surge in passenger visits, welcoming more than 3 million people (3,224,210). This figure has already surpassed the total number of visits recorded for all 12 months of 2022, which stood at 3,212,603 visitors.

This significant increase is largely attributed to the winter sailing season, which is the Bahamas’ prime time for cruise tourism. During winter, the Bahamas becomes a hotspot for cruise ships, as other destinations like Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and other spots in the Northern Hemisphere become a little too frigid, icy, or both for relaxing cruise ship holidays.

Up, Up, and Away at Perfect Day at CocoCay
Up, Up, and Away at Perfect Day at CocoCay (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

With its ongoing expansion efforts and increasing popularity with travelers, Nassau Cruise Port is set to achieve a groundbreaking milestone this year, likely hitting an astounding 4.2 million passengers by the end of 2023. This would be a new record for the port and wonderful news for the nation’s tourism-based economy.

These numbers are sure to increase with the new Royal Caribbean and Carnival destinations in development. Carnival Cruise Line has an exclusive destination – Celebration Key on Grand Bahama Island – in the works for 2025. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean is developing a 17-acre Royal Beach Club on Paradise Island, near Nassau.

Ongoing improvements to Perfect Day at CocoCay – including the addition of the adults-only Hideaway Beach – as well as the growing popularity of other cruise lines’ private destinations are sure to attract even more visitors to the Bahamas in the future.

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