After months of stories overwhelmingly focused on the devastation of the Caribbean caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (BMOTA) is developing a different story as new tourism data shows an uptick in international arrivals to The Bahamas.

Using the new digital tool, Forward Keys, to track business results, the BMOTA has found that after months of lagging international visitor arrivals to The Bahamas when compared to 2016, there was a striking reverse in the trend with October representing a significant change of direction.  International arrivals in The Bahamas in October grew by +31.9% after last year’s results were hampered by Hurricane Matthew. The growth in bookings in October has resulted in a bright booking situation for November 2017 to January 2018, ahead by 16.6%. Bookings from top source markets U.S.A., Canada, France, UK, Germany are ahead by more than 15%. Brazil joins the major feeder markets, as the bookings for arrivals between November 2017 and January 2018 grow by over 80%.

“The Ministry of Tourism has been working very aggressively to promote our destination in the past months in spite of the very serious challenge of hurricanes in our region and across some of our most important international markets,” said Joy Jibrilu, director general.  “We have gone directly to the editors at Travel + Leisure, USA Today and Miami Herald, among others, with post-hurricane updates and new developments for The Bahamas; we have produced informative, online content targeted directly at our key audiences; and driven effective marketing partnerships with Expedia and Trip Advisor. This nimble digital execution is helping us drive change and support our industry partners across the country.”

Before Hurricane Irma arrived in The Bahamas, the BMOTA set up a command center in Nassau and worked with offshore partners to communicate directly with news, travel and lifestyle media, keeping them apprised of weather updates as related to The Bahamas while educating them of the vast geography of The Bahamas. Regular media memos before, during and after Hurricanes Irma and Maria informed media on important updates for travelers and effects on the tourism product. As a result, stories carrying “The Bahamas is Open for Business” message broke through the clutter and let travelers know The Bahamas was ready to welcome them.

A strategic mix of visiting journalists, influencer marketing, retail partnerships and media interviews continued the momentum for The Bahamas, touting “open for business” messaging, new developments and the breadth of unique and authentic experiences for travelers.

In November, the BMOTA welcomed travel, fashion and lifestyle influencers to The Exumas to share with their engaged followers the #NoFilter needed landscapes and experiences they can expect to find in The Bahamas. The Ministry negotiated a partnership with leading outdoor retailer Columbia Sportswear to generate traditional editorial press coverage highlighting The Bahamas’ fishing offerings, along with social media content on Columbia’s channels, which reach a targeted audience of more than 1.7 million outdoors enthusiasts.

At World Travel Market in London, the BMOTA spoke on an international stage about exciting new developments for travelers in 2018. In a one-on-one interview at the event with CNN’s Richard Quest, Minister D’Aguilar discussed the Ministry’s tourism growth and spoke about the recovery of the Caribbean region.

The BMOTA understands that consumers today do almost all of their trip research and booking online, so it is stepping up efforts to tell The Bahamas’ story on the channels which travelers consult for inspiration, entertainment and planning. As part of the Ministry’s post-hurricane efforts, a Bahamas.com story, directly addressing why consumers should travel to The Bahamas now and what they should know, was promoted across digital platforms ensuring that the “open for business” story was visible in Google searches, Facebook feeds and news sites like CNN. Once travelers are motivated to book, the BMOTA’s partnerships with booking engines Expedia and TripAdvisor converted that inspiration into sales. A robust co-op marketing campaign with Expedia, the largest producer of online bookings for the Islands of The Bahamas yielded 263,000 air tickets, an increase in 14.7% year-over-year and 250,000 room nights, a 9% increase, year-over-year.

Additionally, the Ministry of Tourism named Tambourine as its new Advertising and Digital Agency of Record. The firm will work with the BMOTA on digital and social media strategy, content marketing and advertising in North America and Latin America. Tambourine has more than 30 years of relevant experience in Caribbean destination marketing. Some of the marketing goals for The Bahamas include clarifying and enhancing the brand’s message across all channels, amplifying and solidifying the destination’s 16-island marketing strategy, expanding and enhancing content creation and owned media and introducing Latin America markets to the destination.

Ahead of 2018, the Ministry will continue harvesting this crucial data to help inform strategy for reaching target audiences with the right messages, and amplifying these messages to continue to attract visitors to the Islands of The Bahamas.

Media Contact: Anita Johnson-Patty | General Manager, Global Communications | Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation | ajohnson@bahamas.com