Prime Minister Perry Christie
Friday, April 25, 2014
Friday, April 25, 2014
Last year I had the privilege of opening the inaugural Eleuthera Business Outlook. At that time, the country was in the midst of celebrating our 40th Anniversary of Independence and the excitement associated with that milestone buoyed us all. It inspired us to be more hopeful about the opportunities in our country and it encouraged us to embrace change and look at our future with renewed eyes.
Your theme this year, “Charting the Course for Growth in Eleuthera in 2014,” focuses on the need for a plan that will steer Eleuthera towards economic success and growth.
Eleuthera is the “island of freedom” and its symbol, the pineapple, represents hospitality. Both are fitting things to be associated with an island of immense beauty and with numerous opportunities for tourism developments. As an island, it continues to embrace its role as a leader in hospitality and position itself for major revitalization. That revitalization has already begun, with developments such as The Cove, and Eleutherians are reaping the benefits.
However, there is much more that is being done to ensure significant growth in Eleuthera, and the Government is continuously working to make Eleuthera a first choice destination for tourists; both foreign and domestic. While the Government will necessarily play a pivotal role going forward, there is no question that dedicated efforts must also be deployed by the private sector to further the development of Eleuthera’s economy and community.
Eleuthera has a wealth of natural resources and a rich history and culture that attracts people to these shores. The powdery beaches and pristine turquoise waters, the abundance of plant life and the unique geography and topography all lend themselves to creating an island that is much beloved by visitors and natives of Eleuthera. As Eleuthera grows, we must chart the right course for responsible engagement with these treasures. Such beauty should not and must not be spoiled in the name of advancement.
Just last week I had the opportunity to speak at the opening of Phase II of the Leon Levy Preserve in Governor’s Harbour. The preserve is a wonderful exhibit for our visitors to Eleuthera. The facility has added an entirely new and imaginative feature to our educational, environmental and historical treasure trove. Not only is it something that will attract Bahamians from across the archipelago to Eleuthera, it will also bring people from all over the world to Eleuthera – people who are interested in botany, ornithology, rocks, plants and flowers and our traditional bush medicines. This is another notch on the marker of our important preservation of our natural history.
It is also another notch on the marker for tourism growth in Eleuthera. In 2011 at its opening Ms. Shelby White declared, “I believe we have created the finest nature preserve in The Bahamas, a place that makes Eleuthera a must-visit tourist destination and of which we will all be proud.” I wholeheartedly agree with her assertion.
Eleuthera’s wealth of natural resources and beauty has the potential to make this island a first-rate tourist destination for eco-tourists. Certainly, this type of tourism can be attainable in Eleuthera. While Harbour Island already provides a wealth of boutique resorts and luxury living in Eleuthera, the main island with its rich history and striking physical features can develop offerings of eco-tourism, cultural and heritage tourism that can engage and sustain the many communities here. There is a dearth of eco, cultural and historical tourism realities in The Bahamas. There is ample infrastructure here to support the creation of thriving businesses in these areas, together with larger anchor projects.
Starting with the historic Preachers Cave in the north where archaeological remains of early Lucayan Indian, European and African have been discovered, from where the Eleutheran adventurers shipped hardwood to New England for the construction of Harvard College (now Harvard University, to Cupid’s Cay in central Eleuthera where earliest European settlers lived, the first US Consulate was established and from Governor’s Harbour which was a thriving pineapple growing mecca where gentlemen in tails and ladies in long gowns paraded the causeway of its picturesque harbor and from which schooners sailed to US ports with the luscious product a century ago, to Bannerman Town in South Eleuthera where plantation and slave ruins remain, to Rock Sound where the fascinating geological ocean hole is located, and numerous other points of interest along the whole stretch of this magnificent Island so aptly described by Sean Ingraham of Tarpum Bay in his extensive research, present a perfect setting in which to advance heritage tourism.
In fact several of their sites have the potential to be developed into world heritage sites. Eleutherans with support and encouragement from the Government, international organizations and non-Bahamian residents, should take advantage of the enormous opportunities to systematically develop these sites, so that they became a “must see” on tours by Bahamians and discerning visitors with discretionary spending from around the world. My Government wishes to encourage Eleutherans to make a major and sustained thrust to do these things and to proudly show off their unique island and fascinating heritage.
The world ought to know that Eleuthera is the place where stars like Lenny Kravitz have homes, where business tycoons, stars and celebrities find refuge and solace, where Mariah Carey was married in her own home, where royalty frequented, strolled and mingled with the populace, where the writer of the national anthem was born, an island which has produced many of the nation’s leaders, farmers, business persons, artists and professional over the centuries, and an island of proud, enterprising people who have been determined to overcome adversities and embrace opportunities.
I particularly wish to take this opportunity to encourage Bahamians with roots in Eleuthera to build second homes and to resettle in Eleuthera. We see this happening in places like Governor’s Harbour, Palmetto Point, Windermere and other parts of the Island. In addition to building homes there are business opportunities to be embraced and community programs in which to become engaged.
I wish now to turn to agriculture and fisheries. The Government is working assiduously towards the creation of the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Sciences Institute, known as BAMSI. In conjunction with The College of The Bahamas, BAMSI will increase the focus on farming and renew existing farmers’ knowledge and enchant a new generation of farmers so that we can rebuild and revitalize farming to significantly benefit our economy.
BAMSI will have the mandate to research which foods grow well in our soil and climate; experiment with creating hardy hybrids; work on creating sustainable marine-life farms for the farming of seafood; develop organic produce and various other initiatives that will help to inform and develop our ability to produce our own food. With the research provided from the Institute we will be able to effect agricultural innovation.
This revitalization of farming is meant to impact all islands, not just North Andros, where BAMSI will be located. In Eleuthera, we are looking to reintroduce large scale production of the world-famous sugarloaf pineapple. This revitalization will help to significantly impact the Eleutheran economy and it will also support a thriving tourism economy. In fact, the revitalization of farming can go a long way in supporting all types of tourism. In the story of the sugarloaf, there are exact reasons why the pineapple export failed, all having to do with the cost of production. We hope to find innovative ways of mitigating costs and modern ways of increasing production to meet the demands of smaller hotels and resorts. Specifically, my Government would like to see and support the re-establishment and re-imagining of the pineapple industry in Eleuthera. And we would like similar re-visioning to be done for all agriculture in Eleuthera.
New Developments in Tourism
Tourism is on the upswing in Eleuthera. From January to December 2013 a total of 249,017 visitors came to Eleuthera. However I feel that we can improve on this number and will improve on it with the development of a few new resorts on the island.
The Cotton Bay development in South Eleuthera is set to change the face of tourism in that part of the island significantly. With 75% of construction of phase 1 of the project complete, the developers have already invested $90 million to date.
The resort aims to re-establish the legacy of the jet-setting families of the 50s, 60s and 70s that frequented the club community, making them homes away from home. Cotton Bay will feature world-class golf courses that will attract golf enthusiasts from the world over. It will offer luxurious amenities, including two oceanfront hotel sites managed by Noble House Hotels and Resorts.
To continue to enhance tourism on the island and support the Cotton Bay development, particular attention will be given to airlift in South Eleuthera.
Cotton Bay is also a good example of a development that attracted in the interest and investment of Bahamians. Franklyn Wilson serves as Chairman of Eleuthera Properties Ltd.
We are well advanced in our negotiations with the Samiento and Four Seasons interests for a Four Seasons branded luxury resort also here in South Eleuthera. My professional advisors will meet again next week with Four Seasons representatives with a view to wrapping up the terms of a Heads of Agreement for approval by the National Economic Council.
While the course for tourism is set and bodes well for the economy of Eleuthera, there are other developments and changes that will and must happen to ensure growth in Eleuthera.
The building of a new hospital in Palmetto Point will go a long way in serving and supporting the immediate community and populations for the whole Island. The land has already been acquired with plans being drawn for a hospital that meets local and international standards. This should provide a boost for meeting the basic medical needs of residents and visitors alike
While we work towards an economic renaissance in Eleuthera, we must remember that the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality throughout the world. As a significant part of engaging the hospitality community in the revitalization of Eleuthera, the Government’s National Training Programme is gearing up to train locals. This programme will help to facilitate the education and skills development of the workforce with extensive training initiatives and standardization of service levels. Upon successful completion, persons will be provided with valid certification.
In the time honoured tradition of the proud people of Eleuthera, let the highest standards of service be one of the most distinctive features to be found on this island.
With help from the Government, public private partnerships and significant investment from both Bahamians and foreigners, this island is on a course headed for major economic growth. For this growth we require the cooperation of the entire Eleutheran community to stay the course.
I would like to thank Mrs. Joan Albury for having the vision and the determination to bring Business Outlook to Eleuthera. I would also like to thank the organisers for inviting me to speak again and share with you some of the plans to encourage economic growth in Eleuthera.
I wish you all a successful Eleuthera Business Outlook Conference.