TORONTO – The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has declared 2016 the ‘Year of Romance’ for the Caribbean, and in response, the Islands of the Bahamas has launched several new initiatives that focus on love.
Delegates from The Bahamas, including Joy Jibrilu, Director General of The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (MOT), were recently in Toronto to promote ‘From Bahamas With Love’, a new marketing campaign directed at visitors who are “interested in getting engaged, married, honeymoon or rekindling their romance in The Bahamas.”
Officially launched in Nassau’s Pompey Square on Feb. 16, the campaign will include video clips and themed months that target a different segment of the romance market: Engagements (February); Bachelor Parties (March); Bachelorette Parties (April); Destination Weddings (May); Honeymoons (June); Vow Renewals (July); Anniversaries (August); Babymoons (September); Romantic Getaways (October); Engagements (November); and Honeymoon Registries (December).
“With this campaign, we are positioning ourselves as the island of romance,” said Freda Malcolm, Director of Romance at the MOT. “We were named the World’s Leading Wedding Destination in 2015 at the World Travel Awards, which gives us plenty of bragging rights. We’re now recognized as a leader in the romance market.”
To emphasize this point even further, the MOT has also launched its award-winning ‘16 Weddings Invitation’ promotion in Canada on Jan. 8. Previously launched in the U.S. in 2014, the promotion will enable 16 Canadian couples to have their dream wedding in The Bahamas on Nov. 16, 2016 at 16:00 hours. The weddings will take place simultaneously at 16 different Bahamian locations on 14 of the country’s many islands.
Couples are encouraged to share their love stories and explain why they should be selected to win, as well as upload photos and/or a short video to bahamas16weddings.com. Semi-finalists will be selected by a panel of judges and posted on the site for consumers to vote via social media. The 16 contestants with the most votes will comprise the winning group of couples, and will receive complimentary roundtrip airline tickets, hotel accommodations including meals for a minimum of five nights, a wedding coordinator, wedding ceremony, cake and flowers.
The contest closes on June 10, and the winners will be announced on June 16.
These romance initiatives come on the heels of a record year in tourism, Jibrilu told Travelweek. The Director General said that in 2015, hotels in The Bahamas enjoyed record numbers, the highest since 2007, which she attributes to expanded marketing efforts, the rebounding U.S. dollar, engagement with the media as well as increased airlift from Canada. As a result, the destination saw a 7% increase in Canadian tourist arrivals, which makes Canada the #2 market behind the U.S.
But the question on everyone’s minds these days is will the numbers continue to rise in the midst of the Zika outbreak, which has affected much of South America and is now encroaching on the Caribbean?
Jibrilu was clear – Zika is not in The Bahamas. And in the event that it one day is, she told Travelweek that the destination has not been sitting on its laurels.
“We’ve been pro-active with Zika, engaging with hotels and several Ministries, including the Ministry of Health, Tourism and Environment,” she said. “We also started a national fogging program to kill mosquito larvae, and have provided insect repellant in all hotel rooms.”
The Bahamas is safe and ready to welcome visitors, which is great news considering the slew of new developments and product this year and beyond. In 2017, The Point, a US$250 million development, will open in Nassau, featuring 110 condo units, a 250-room hotel, movie theatre, spa, 14 restaurants and a marina. According to Jibrilu, The Point will “revolutionize the physical landscape of downtown Nassau.”
Opening this spring will be the Warrick Paradise Island Resort, the island’s only four-star, all-inclusive, adults-only property. The Island House, a 30-room boutique hotel in west Nassau, recently opened its doors, as did Ocean West, a 10-room boutique hotel and vacation rental property.
And what about Baha Mar, the $3.5 billion resort whose developer filed for bankruptcy protection last summer?
Jibrilu, who compared the months-long situation to a “pregnancy” that she’d like to finally see it come to term, said that The Bahamas is “committed to open its doors in the near future.” For now, the resort is looking forward to hosting the 2016 IDB conference this April.
For more information on travel to The Bahamas, visit bahamas.com.