The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has shaped a plan to make the island of Grand Bahama a major player in tourism once again, according to Minister of Tourism Neko Grant.
At the 10th Annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook held at the Our Lucaya Resort, he announced that through the Ministry’s community based tourism programmes, spearheaded by Jeritzan Outten and her team, the ministry can now deliver 35 new tours and activities to visitors to the island.
The tours will be available to visitors and residents alike, ranging from two tank reef dives to eco-tours, he said.
“The idea of community based tourism is not new, but our approach to it is innovative. We have determined that the communities on Grand Bahama Island have a vital role to play in ensuring that the overall tourism industry is sustainable,” Mr. Grant said.
He said that the Ministry of Tourism is currently finalizing assessments for the development of tourism resources in these communities and expects to be able to increase the number of destination experiences on the island by 16 from 35 to 51 activities by the third quarter of this calendar year.
Last year at a town meeting held in Freeport by the Ministry of Tourism, it was reiterated by stakeholders in the industry that tourists complained that there was nothing for them to do on the island.
Minister Grant said that the new attractions include a south Grand Bahama tour, East End Trip and excursion to the Abacos, Holmes Rock Nature Trail and Cave Tour, Lighthouse Point in Pinder’s Point; the Eight Mile Rock Boiling Hole in Hepburn Town, Grand Bahama Museum, Sculpture Points at Junkanoo Beach Club, Coastline Cruise and Shopping Tour, Coastline Cruise to Paradise Cove and Beach Party, and Rafting the Lucayan Creek.
Many of the onshore tours will include visits to native restaurants and bars for drinks and local snacks coupled with indigenous music and cultural entertainment.
“Regardless of our less than stellar performance in recent years, world tourism is on the rise,” Mr. Grant said.
Global estimates for 2007 suggest a six percent increase in the world’s tourism economy according to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), he said.
“An expanding global tourism economy represents opportunity for Grand Bahama Island to expand its tourism performance moving forward,” continued Mr. Grant.
One of the fastest growing sectors is the cruise industry, where interest from an aging US population, an expanded cruise season, and successful introduction of new ships have combined with demand to produce record profits for some US cruise providers in the third quarter of 2007, he said.
“Despite the threat that cruise vacations pose to our core stopover visitor business, this remains an important sector, providing a source of incremental tourism revenue that has the added advantage of flowing immediately, and directly into the hands of a large cross section of independent small Bahamian business persons,” he said.
Mr. Grant also noted that if it had not been for the intervention of the ministry, Discovery Cruise Lines daily cruise ferry service would have come to a stop in the fall of 2007.
He said that for sustainable growth to take place in the tourism sector, the ministry must work assiduously to ensure that on-shore experiences exceed expectations.
“Only in this way will we be able to boost the average visitor spend from $53 to the industry standard in the region of $100 per person. This is achievable provided Grand Bahamians are prepared to invest in tourism products that complement the destination,” Mr. Grant said.
He noted that that the $100 million new cruise port that was foreshadowed in the government’s plan is being actively pursued and “drawing closer.”
“We have negotiated additional new non-stop jet service from other gateways that you will be hearing about shortly as we advance our plans to reposition and re-launch this destination in true partnership with the private sector,” Mr. Grant said.