|The Bahamas Investor Magazine
January 4, 2008
January 4, 2008
The rest of the world is now catching on to something The Bahamas realized more than 40 years ago: Tourism is big business. With the competition between destinations for tourist dollars heating up and technology making it easier for travellers to get to once far-flung places, private- and public-sector players in the Bahamian tourism field are working hard to keep this pioneering destination at the top of the visitors’ list.
Accounting for approximately 50 per cent of our gross domestic product, tourism is the mainstay of the Bahamian economy, and any reduction in the number of visitors and their expenditures inevitably exerts an impact on the lives of our people. Accordingly, we are taking significant steps toward improving our overall tourism product. Already, tremendous resources are being pumped into refurbishing the country’s main port of entry, Lynden Pindling International Airport. The Bahamian government and Canadian airport management company Vancouver Airport Services Ltd signed a 10-year, $220-million heads of agreement for that group to manage and oversee the renovation and rebuilding of the facility. In total, between $250 and $300 million will be spent on the upgrade, which has an anticipated completion date of 2012.
Another priority is the revitalization of our capital’s downtown area. The historic city of Nassau is often the only part of the country that cruise visitors see and is usually high on the priority list for our hotel guests as well. The various ministries responsible for this area met early last year and have consulted with private-sector interests to formulate a plan to enhance this vital part of the tourism product. At the same time, we are hard at work creating the kinds of activities that visitor feedback tells us they want and expect to find when they visit this country. The Ministry of Tourism is spearheading the creation and marketing of a series of special tours to showcase different aspects of Bahamian history and culture, from agriculture and art to flora and film-making.
In January of last year, as part of its Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, the United States began requiring its citizens to hold passports in order to travel to the Caribbean region. Since the majority of The Bahamas’ tourists have traditionally derived from the US, we viewed this as a major challenge and have used it as an opportunity to diversify our marketing efforts into different parts of the world in order to reduce our reliance on a single travel market. Happily, those efforts paid rich dividends in 2007. A major advertising campaign coupled with a rising Canadian dollar resulted in a 14 per cent increase in Canadian tourists to our country in 2007 versus 2006, proving there is tremendous market potential in this and other previously untapped markets.
The strides being made to improve Nassau’s downtown area are providing new and exciting entertainment options for visitors to our shores. Moreover, the refurbishment of some of our older hotels and the development of new ones, along with an increased focus on providing top-notch service throughout the islands, will ensure that The Bahamas maintains its pole position as a leading tourist destination and that the industry sustains the country’s robust economy for years to come.
Neko Grant, JP, MP
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Neko Grant is a Grand Bahamian and represents the constituency of Lucaya in parliament as a member of the Free National Movement. Grant holds a diploma in Business Management from La Salle Extension University, Chicago, and a diploma in International Management from the European Institute of Business Administration. From 1975 until his appointment to cabinet in 2007, he worked for the Burns House Group of Companies, rising to the position of group manager, North Bahamas.