Central Bank statistics show positive trends
Local tourism strengthened during the third quarter of 2002 despite the sluggish state of the United States' economy and the heightened prospects of war in the Middle East, according to the Central Bank Quarterly Economic Review.
The September 2002 edition, issued this week by the bank suggests that tourism performance was supported by continued growth in cruise visitors and some rebound in the average pricing levels in the hotel sector.
The World Tourism Organisation reported Monday that tourism around the world hit a record last year despite fears of terrorism, although travelers stayed closer to home, made shorter visits and spent less.
For the first time, the number of international arrivals broke the 700-million mark, reaching nearly 715 million, the WTO said. That marked a 3.1 per cent rise from 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks triggered a drop in 0.6 per cent drop from the previous year.
France remained the world's most popular destination for international travelers with an estimated 76.7 million arrivals, and Asia and the Pacific displaced the Americas as the No. 2 two region after Europe, said the World Tourism Organisation, of which The Bahamas is a member.
The Central Bank of The Bahamas also reported that strong growth in Grand Bahama and the Family Island volumes underpinned a 11.3 per cent revival in total visitor arrivals to 1, 038,208, reversing the 1.7 per cent decrease realised in 2001.
While arrivals in New Providence, which accounted for 58.3 per cent of visitors declined further by 2.1 per cent, the bank noted that traffic to Grand Bahama and the Family Islands strengthened by 9.4 per cent and 66.3 per cent, respectively.
Amid the slowdown in the United States' economy, the bank reported that the primary stopover market, air arrivals declined slightly by 0.3 per cent to 335,829, nevertheless moderating 2001 decrease of 3.1 per cent, and with notable gains during September offset by weaker trends in July and August.
According to the report, the recovery in air arrivals to Grand Bahama associated with significantly discounted prices was outweighed by further contractions in both New Providence and the Family Islands.
On the other hand, the bank reported that sea-visitor growth rebounded strongly by 17.9 percent to 702,379 passengers, from a slight decline of 0.9 percent in 2001, led by nearly-doubled Family Island traffic, which captured significant cruise activity that previously called first at New Providence.
"Given the strong uptrend in cruise visitors and firmer prices in the stay-over market, indications are that visitor expenditures rebounded moderately from the third-quarter 2001 contraction," the bank reported.
In the area of domestic economic developments, the Central Bank's preliminary indicators point to continued sluggishness during the third quarter of 2002, "with modest improvement in tourism output as associated with a narrow-based recovery in average pricing, as opposed to increased stopover volumes."
And in the construction area, the report stated that bank lending supported moderately expanded housing investments, but commercial activity was stagnant in the absence of any sizeable support from foreign investments.
Also in the construction sector, indications are that expenditures were upheld by slightly firmer net mortgage lending.
According to the Central Bank's survey, mortgages outstanding at banks, insurance companies and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation rose by a combined $46.4 million to $1,169.5 million during the third quarter, building on the year-earlier net increase of $39.6 million to $1,071.8 million.
"Most of this was due to the nearly doubled gain in residential mortgages of $43.9 million, with net commercial lending sharply curtailed at $2.6 million," the bank said. "New activity in both segments, however, benefitted from correspondingly reduced interest rates of 8.8 per cent and 9.4 per cent, respectively."
By Lindsay Thompson, The Nassau Guardian