The Bahamas may have placed second at the CARIFTA Games over the weekend, but Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe said the country struck gold based on the tourism impact of the track event. While tourism officials are still crunching the numbers, Wilchcombe said reports from hotel officials indicate that business was booming over the Easter holiday weekend. “I can tell you that we had 100 percent occupancy levels for most of the hotels in the capital. They were solidly booked,” said Wilchcombe.“CARIFTA played a big part. So you have to factor in CARIFTA and it was also the Easter weekend and the fact that there were people coming into the country from other parts of the world other than the Caribbean, who were coming as a part of their getaway or enjoying our destination. So we had good bookings here and we had good bookings in Grand Bahama as well, but Nassau in particular had most hotels 100 percent occupied.”
The 70-member CARIFTA team racked up 31 medals — eight gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze — to finish second behind Jamaica, which hauled in 69 medals — 29 gold, 25 silver and 15 bronze. Trinidad and Tobago finished third.
Twenty-six countries participated in the CARIFTA games, bringing in over 1,000 participants and fans, a tourism official estimated yesterday. But now that the track competition is done, Minister Wilchcombe said his ministry is now working to keep the momentum going.“The whole idea is to ensure that we have groups and activities that are going on that will continue to draw our numbers. You have to sustain it from January to January. It has to be where occupancy levels remain in the 80 percent range. That’s our objective, to constantly work on that and that’s what we’re doing.”
Wilchcombe added that a number of events are on the books for the next two months, which will help to boost the tourism numbers.
“Atlantis told me that April is crazy,” Wilchcombe said, referring to the resort’s bookings. “May has a number of major events. We just announced a Radio One event (gospel festival), we have the Pure Silk event (golf tournament) and there will be a major soccer event in The Bahamas. So there are a number of things taking place in the capital and we are having a discussion about Grand Bahama right now to ensure that we have events planned there.”