The Bahamas crossed the 5 million mark for 2010 visitors in mid-December, a 15% increase over last year, according to Minister of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

This marks the second time in recent years that the destination hit the milestone. Vanderpool-Wallace said the total visitor figures for 2010 could hit a record number.

Most of the growth this year has come from the cruise sector versus stayover arrivals, which grew by only 4.5%, according to the minister.

He said that stopover visits must improve for the tourism industry to completely recover from the economic downturn of the past two years.

"When we focus on tourism as an economic development tool, we want those high-spending stopover visitors," Vanderpool-Wallace told the Nassau Guardian.

A companion fly-free air promotion earlier this year did help increase the number of stayover visitors, the minister said. The promotion accounted for more than 250,000 room nights sold.

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