Director General Jibrilu Details Tourism Plans For 2016

While the Ministry of Tourism boasts a successful 2015, Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu recently shared that tourism officials are looking to engage new strategies to boost the country’s number one industry.

The director general, who recently had an exclusive interview with Travel Weekly, said The Bahamas will aggressively pursue opportunities in Latin America in 2016.

“We want to continue to grow Latin America. We have direct airlift on Copa out of Panama, and that’s been a great move. Brazil and Colombia, in particular, connect through Panama. We’re strategically going after direct airlift. We’ve had some meetings with other carriers out of Latin America,” she said.

Director General Jibrilu said officials recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Eastern Airlines in hopes of getting more airlift out of the West Coast of the US.

“We have historically had a really strong relationship with Eastern, and so I can’t express how happy I was when they approached The Bahamas to re-engage, and we hope it will materialize,” she said.

“That could lead to the possibility of connections with flights out of China. There are three flights from China into L.A. each day, bringing 900 people. I have heard some incredible statistics: the average Chinese visitor spends $6,000. We have opened up an office in Beijing and sent staff there, learned the culture, learned what is needed.

“If we can just get a tiny bit of some of these incremental visitors and visitor spend, I think it bodes well for us as a destination.”

While noting that the United States continues to be The Bahamas’ top market, Ms. Jibrilu stressed that tourism officials are diversifying in Europe.

This year, the Ministry of Tourism opened offices in Europe and it has paid off.

In the United Kingdom alone from 2014 to 2015, year to date, visitor numbers have grown by 11 per cent.

“We know that the interest in travel is as high as it has ever been. Where they may have gone to North Africa, even to places in Europe or Turkey, I think they’re going to think twice and wonder if they should stay closer to home,” Ms. Jibrilu said.

“We have been very fortunate in the Caribbean that there has been stability. We’ve operated, to some degree, under the radar, and we pray that that continues, and we believe that we will be indirect beneficiaries of what’s happening globally because, to date — thank God, touch wood — we have proven to be a very safe destination.”

The director general predicts that consumer trends will lean towards ‘millennials’ or young people with access to money.

“They’re looking for innovative things. They have the desire to travel, many of them have the means to travel, and we are seeing the change,” she said.

“We’re still a family destination, but we’re seeing younger people thinking of The Bahamas as different. What that means is, it’s no longer just Nassau and Paradise Island, but our Family Islands. This is what is unique about The Bahamas: Jamaica’s one island; Barbados is one island; we get 700 islands and thousands of cays, and we actively market 16 of them. It’s possible to have a different experience in each. Visitors are going to the islands to dive, to bone fish, to bird-watch, so we’re promoting ecotourism and activities that may not have been promoted as heavily in the past. We’re differentiating ourselves to ensure not only that we retain our market share but that we grow it.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Jibrilu said the Ministry of Tourism has also stepped up PR efforts.

“We’re engaging not just in traditional media and PR, but we’re looking at digital. Our social media is robust. We have some young, dynamic people who are, frankly, educating me daily, and the numbers are reflecting what they’re doing,” she said.

Media Contact: Kendea Smith | ksmith@bahamas.com | 242-397-2786