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New organization gives marina operators a voice

The Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB) is forging initiatives to bolster the marina and boating tourism business in the nation. Perfectly suited for this industry, The Bahamas must actively pursue opportunities, it says. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010

With numbers of marina stopovers on the increase in The Bahamas, a new organization is taking steps to ensure smooth sailing within the boating industry.

Since forming in 2009, the Marina Operators of The Bahamas (MOB), has been forging initiatives in the boating tourism sector and marina industry. So far, with support from the Bahamas Hotels Association (BHA) and a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank, the group has conducted forums and has been working to promote the industry’s potential as a big money earner for the island nation.

The group has also successfully lobbied government to eliminate customs duties on marine parts and abandon a proposed five per cent tax on gross revenues to marinas. It has also recommended amendments to modernize requirements for large luxury vessels.

“Our mission is to represent the needs and interests of marinas,” says MOB manager Shamine Johnson. “Our purpose is to be the leading unified voice for our industry.”

Targeting the well-heeled and the well-keeled, MOB?and the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) have combined efforts to promote the islands as a world-leading marina destination to tap into a wealthy sector of the tourism market.

According to MOTA, marina stopovers in 2009 stood at 40,081, an 11 per cent year-on-year jump and a six per cent increase on 2007. Earl Miller, general manager for MOTA’s vertical markets, suggests that a boat with four people on-board spends up to $5,000 during a four-day, three-night stay. “The average stopover is 13 nights,” he says, making an average spend of around $21,000.

In an address to MOB?representatives during a marinas workshop held recently, MOTA Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said, “there is no country in the region that has the potential that The Bahamas has,” adding that the economic impact made from the boating industry could lead to “accelerating development” of other sectors.

“What MOB?is doing is falling in perfectly with the strategies of the Ministry of Tourism,” said the minister. “It’s key that [MOB] understands how important it is in making things happen.”

Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotels Association (BHA) and MOB?secretary, says one of MOB’s main priorities is to conduct a detailed economic analysis of the current impact of the marina industry and its projected impact “in terms of employment, tax revenue, spending and auxiliary impact on other businesses” over the next three-to-five years.

“I think it’s going to be a very significant report that comes out and will give us better direction,” he adds.

In the meantime, MOB is looking at a variety of marina-related issues including ways the government can reassess entry fees for boaters coming into The Bahamas, streamlining the entry process by combining customs and immigration functions, and develop a national strategic plan for the marina industry. It is also keen to address marina security and boat theft concerns, and establish more compliant environmental standards and practices for all marinas.

MOB president John Bethell says gaining support and membership is also a top priority. Within the past year, MOB has conducted several meetings in Grand Bahama and Nassau, and plans to hold meetings on many of the Family Islands including Abaco, Eleuthera and Bimini.

“It’s just a matter of us getting out there and letting people know we exist and this is what we’re doing,” he says. “It’s to their advantage to join us.”

A leading banker in The Bahamas urges those in the resort and tourism sector to target visitors from emerging economies, such as China. "America is in trouble. So, what's next?" asks Gregory bethel, president of Fidelity Bank (Bahamas) Ltd.

Following the dredging of the Nassau harbour, the port is now fit to receive some of the world's largest cruise superliners, including Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Epic.

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