Popular Cruise Destination Shatters Tourism Records

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In a year that exceeded all expectations, The Bahamas has solidified its status as a premier global destination, breaking previous tourism records with over 9.65 million arrivals in 2023.

A Historic Milestone in Tourism

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation announced a record-breaking 9,654,838 visitors in 2023. This remarkable achievement represents a 38% increase over 2022 and a 33% increase from the previous record set in 2019.

This surge in tourism was driven by a significant 17% increase in foreign air arrivals and an unprecedented 43.5% rise in sea arrivals, highlighting The Bahamas’ popularity as a cruise destination. 

Sea arrivals alone jumped from 5,530,462 visitors in 2022 to 7,934,858 in 2023.

“The Bahamas has not only surpassed its targets but has set new benchmarks in the tourism industry,” said Hon. I. Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister and minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation. “This record-breaking year is a clear indication of The Bahamas’ position as a top-tier destination for travelers seeking unparalleled experiences.”

Read Also: Ground Broken for New Cruise Port in The Bahamas

The distribution of visitors across the 16-island destination additionally broke tourism records. New Providence, Grand Bahama, and the Family Islands all saw substantial increases in visitor numbers.

Downtown Nassau, Bahamas
Downtown Nassau, Bahamas (Photo Credit: Luciavonu)

New Providence, featuring the impressive Nassau Cruise Port and terminal, received 4,441,540 total visitors, marking a 36% increase from the previous year. 

Grand Bahama followed with an impressive 44% surge, welcoming a total of 559,812 tourists. Cruise arrivals call on Freeport’s Lucayan Harbour.

The Family, or Out, Islands that include Eleuthera, Bimini, Great Abaco, Pig Beach and Harbour Island, experienced a 40% rise in visitor numbers, with 4,653,486 arrivals via both sea and air.

The Gateway to Bahamian Tourism

As The Bahamas main port of entry, Nassau Cruise Port, played a pivotal role in The Bahamas’ tourism success in 2023, recording its own numbers as slightly higher than the totals from the Ministry’s record recordings.

The cruise terminal, which can accommodate up to eight ships at once, announced it has witnessed 4,490,802 passengers across 1,210 vessels. This record bested the previous high set in 2019 by 14%.

Noteworthy achievements for the port included breaking its single-day passenger record twice, with the peak reaching 29,316 visitors in December. These milestones contributed substantially to The Bahamas surpassing its annual tourism target, boosting the local economy with over $6 billion in visitor spending.

Cruise Passengers in Nassau, Bahamas
Cruise Passengers in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo Credit: Luciavonu)

In January 2024 alone, Port Nassau welcomed 38 Royal Caribbean ships, 34 Carnival Cruise Line ships, 13 Celebrity Cruises ships, 10 Disney Cruise Line ships, 9 MSC Cruises ships, 7 Norwegian Cruise Line ships, 3 Holland America ships, and one ship from Virgin Voyages, Azamara Cruises, and Fred Olsen Cruise Line.

February’s arrivals nearly mimic the previous month, and the Nassau Cruise Port aims to welcome 5.6 million passengers in 2024.

Latia Duncombe, director of general tourism, said, “As The Bahamas continues to welcome visitors with open arms, we look forward to building on this momentum. With our commitment to excellence and innovation in the tourism sector, The Bahamas is poised for even greater success in the years to come.”

As many large cruise lines also operated private islands in The Bahamas, including Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay (Little Stirrup Cay), Disney Cruise Line’s Castaway Cay, Holland America’s Half Moon Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Great Stirrup Cay, and Princess Cruises’ Princess Cay (Eleuthera), The Bahamas is poised to generated even more revenue from cruise tourism with the implementation of a new Value-Added Tax (VAT) going into effect on March 1.

Ending a nine-year VAT exemption, the reform introduces a standard 10% VAT rate on services provided on private islands. Cruise lines owning private islands or exceeding $100,000 in annual taxable sales are required to register for VAT, which is applicable to a wide range of services, including food and beverage, recreational activities, equipment rentals, and spa services. 

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