Family Islands of The Bahamas like Andros, Bimini, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Exuma, Cat Island, Inagua, and Mayaguana tend to have fluctuating economic stability despite their natural beauty and unique attractions. The popular belief among Bahamians is that the necessary foreign investment to build mega-resorts like Atlantis always goes to Nassau, so these economies cannot grow. Since the global financial recession of 2008, there has been a decline in the total number of foreign tourists, especially Americans who represent more than 80 percent of stay-over visitors who choose to stay in high-end resorts of The Bahamas. Therefore, attracting tourists to the Family Islands will require cultivating a different tourism market and experience.
According to the World Tourism Organization, backpackers are less vulnerable to fluctuating economic conditions and are more likely to be resilient and flexible. Youth-oriented and backpacking tourism have been on the rise. The youth travel industry with 106 million international arrivals now accounts for over 20% of global international arrivals. This market is worth US$187 billion a year which is 20% of global international receipts (UNWTO, 2011).
Who is a backpacker?
Backpackers are usually between the ages of 20 and 35 years, and are generally from North American and European countries. They are more likely to be students, with secondary- and university- level education. The average backpacker spends US$1,000 to US$6,000 per trip and stays over 50 days in a country (WYSE Travel Confederation, 2011). Backpackers are interested in local culture and practices, they support local businesses, and would be more attracted to a bed & breakfast or guest house than to a high-end resort. Backpackers are attracted to nature, outdoor activities, and travelling extensively within a country in order to experience all there is to offer at reasonable prices.
What can The Bahamas do to attract Backpackers?
Investing in inter-island ferries could make travel easier and island-hopping more cost-effective. Promotion of Bahamian bed & breakfasts and guest houses could bring lower-cost options and cultural flair to a traveler’s visit. Labeling locations and route information of parks, historical sites, wildlife trails, and offshore attractions could attract backpackers and grow the Family Islands’ tourism potential.