By Geoffrey Brown
Nassau Guardian Business Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- A Bahamas ministry of tourism official has revealed plans to set up a Beijing office, claiming that the new facility will be well-positioned to “capitalize” on the globally projected 100 million outbound Chinese tourists.
Director of tourism for the Asian market Don Cornish stated that he will take up residence in China by the end of the month and continue efforts to establish a stronger presence for The Bahamas in Asia.
“My task is to continue the work that we’ve started there and really try to penetrate that market, considering that the Chinese market is the largest outbound market for travel worldwide now. It exceeds 80 million and it’s growing at a rate of about 18 percent per year,” said Cornish.
The number of Chinese outbound tourists worldwide is expected to exceed 100 million by the end of the year and The Bahamas is seeking to attract affluent tourists.
“We’re looking at luxury and premium business, the business traveler, persons who are affluent, who are in a position to take a second trip, who would’ve already looked at the United States and Canada as an option,” stated Cornish. “Outside of that we’re looking at MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) business, meetings, conventions and expos, persons who are going on specially-arranged trips in groups who intend to spend significant time in the destination.”
The ministry of tourism’s new office will be based in Beijing and will serve as the ministry’s base of operations for the Asian market. Cornish, who was appointed to the position in May of this year, expects that the office will be operational within the next two months.
The ministry has worked with international public relations firm GolinHarris to raise awareness of The Bahamas in China ahead of the office’s opening, and is “looking to do stronger marketing in addition to the public relations that we’ve had over the years”.
Cornish said that quickly capitalizing on niche markets within the industry, including MICE business and destination weddings, is key to securing long-term outbound tourism from China.
Cornish added that successful marketing is contingent on a number of factors, such as creating awareness of The Bahamas in China, increasing airlift and taking into account the seasonal travel of Chinese tourists.
“Generally they travel at specific times, mostly around their holiday periods between October and April,” said Cornish, adding that increasing airlift remains a priority for the government.
“We don’t have direct airlift and so that’s going to be one of the things that we have to overcome,” stated Cornish.
“We’re going to talk to airlines to see what can be done in the short term. One of the realities is that most of the destinations that do have direct airlift have demand, and so we have to create that demand.
Although Cornish did not expect airlift to increase “overnight”, he felt that The Bahamas could become a major travel hub for the Americas in the future.
“There is maybe even opportunity for some charter business depending on the volume of good business we’re able to develop initially… Over a period of time I suspect that there may be an opportunity for direct flights once the airlines have a good look at the destination, because The Bahamas very much could be a hub for the Central American/South American regions.”
While the office’s operations will focus primarily on China, secondary markets including South Korea, Japan and Australia will also be pursued.
Cornish is a former island administrator for Cat Island and administrator in the Office of the Prime Minister. According to his LinkedIn profile, he also served as a director within the ministry of tourism from 2005 to 2008.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian