NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Bahamas maintained its share of the tourist market, bringing in a record 3.5 million cruise visitors and increasing airlift by almost 400,000 seats in 2009, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham said on Thursday, February 4, 2010.

The Prime Minister said in his New Year’s Address to the Nation that the Government is focused on making the islands of The Bahamas more accessible, affordable and convenient.

“We have been able to maintain our market share, maintain our room rates and grow certain segments of our business,” Prime Minister Ingraham said.

“We have more cruise ships visiting our shores than ever before, bringing in last year more than 3.5 million visitors. There have been double-digit increases in cruise passenger delivery each month during 23009 to New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands,” he added.

The Prime Minister said the month of December was particularly exciting when The Bahamas welcomed the newest addition of the Royal Caribbean fleet of ships, the first in the Genesis class, the Oasis of the Seas.

He also said that the three major cruise lines which operate private beach experiences in The Bahamas have undertaken significant upgrade and in some instances, expansion of their Bahamian facilities in the Berry Islands, Abaco and Eleuthera.

“We now have more air service than ever before; new and expanded service from the United States and Canada resulted in an increase of almost 400,000 seats,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the opening of the new luxury 183 room Sandals resort at Ocean Bight has created employment for some 300 Bahamians and is expected to stabilize Exuma’s economy this year.

“The acquisition, refurbishment and reopening of the small boutique Tiamo Resort in Andros, the opening of the upscale Delphi Club in South Abaco, and the scheduled April opening of the new S&T Beach Club in San Salvador reflect a growing trend internationally of the development of exclusive specialty boutique resorts which are proving to be less susceptible to the ups and downs of the world economy,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the viability of these small resorts is being demonstrated by the success of other small bed-and-breakfast resorts around the Family Islands.

“Many of them used the traditional summer lull last year to access concessions under the Hotels Encouragement Act for a host of refurbishment and enhancement projects,” Prime Minister Ingraham said.

He said some 862 construction workers are now engaged in the construction at the multi-million dollar luxury golf and marina resort, Albany, in southwestern New Providence.

Another 71 Bahamians, he said, are engaged by the Albany Development Company, bringing the total number of Bahamians engaged at the Albany project to some 943 individuals.

The Prime Minister noted that the $75 million first phase of the Caves Heights condominium development on West Bay Street and Blake Road is nearing completion.

“It is projected that as many as 200 construction jobs will be created during the $25 million Phase II construction of the upscale Caves which is now getting underway,” he added.