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New boost for Grand Bahama tourism

Local organizations combine efforts to improve and expand the visitor experience on the nation's second most populous island. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grand Bahama Development Co is teaming up with the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corp (AMMC) to deliver a boost to the island’s tourism industry.

The AMMC, which is spearheading the project, received a $300,000 government grant in early 2010 to establish a heritage centre in a key tourist spot in the hope that it will attract more visitors to the area.

A museum and a replica of an early 19th century dwelling will be constructed in the Garden of the Groves botanical gardens–an important spot on the Grand Bahama tourist trail.

AMMC director Dr Keith Tinker says: “The Garden receives a significant amount of cruise ship visitors on a daily basis. The garden and the cultural heritage aspect will come together and each will support the other.

“It is a local community project, so they will have something they can be proud of. They can exhibit their history as well, and show how life may have been back then.”

The replica dwelling will be constructed from original building materials found at the site of the early Freetown settlement, which is one of the earliest communities established by freed slaves on the island in 1834. Construction of the building and museum will be carried out by Grand Bahama Development and is expected to start before the end of 2010.

A heritage centre will be located alongside the building to give visitors a chance to explore the history of the area. According to Dr Tinker, exploiting the tourist potential in The Bahamas’ past is crucial to bringing in more visitors and giving the country an edge over its Caribbean competitors.

“Heritage tourism is beginning to increase in its significance. Every Caribbean country has sun, sand and sea, but our historical traditions are unique,” he explains.

The AMMC director would like to see more heritage centres being developed throughout the Family Islands to increase the drive towards more heritage tourism and capitalize on the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation’s (MOTA’s) efforts to promote the other islands as destinations.

“In the Family Islands, [tourist] numbers are increasing and the need for establishment of heritage resource centres is increasing too,” he says.

According to figures from The Central Bank of The Bahamas, sea arrivals to Grand Bahama were up by 14.9 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2010, while overall arrivals to The Bahamas rose 9.2 per cent to 1.4 million.

In 2009, MOTA named five heritage sites on the island. They are Mermaid Pond in Lewis Yard, Pinder’s Point Lighthouse at Hawksbill Creek, the boiling hole in Hepburn Town, Fern Gully and Josey Cave.

An innovative programme, conducted over the summer by the Bahamas Hotel Association in collaboration with the Tourism Ministry, aims to give students hands-on experience in the hospitality industry.

According to the head of the Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) Stephen Wrinkle, Cable Beach mega-resort will be pioneering project for the region and vastly improve skill sets of local contractors.

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