NASSAU, BAHAMAS – This nation needs to focus on ‘accessibility’ and make it easier for tourists to visit the out islands, a top tourism executive said yesterday.
Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) president Carlton Russell explained the cost of airfare to the family islands is an impediment to out island access.
He spoke as a panelist on the Financial Voice program by the Counselors Ltd TCL Group.
“I think that 2018 has been our best tourism year in the last ten years,” Russell said.
“Up to August 31st, 2019 would have surpassed 2018 and so that says we are going in the right direction. Tourism I think is the vehicle to help us to rebuild and move from poverty to prosperity and to give us hope.
“Nassau has been successful but the real growth for the Bahamas is in the family islands. We need to figure out how to bundle Nassau and the family islands where a visitor can spend time in Nassau but also visit the islands. We need to focus on accessibility.”
Russell continued: “It costs you more to get from Inagua to Nassau than Miami to Nassau. We need to figure this thing out. I know government’s focus is on taxation but a huge amount of the airfare is taxes. We need to figure out how to reduce that and give our tourists more accessibility to the family islands.”
Russell said while there may be concern by government over lost tax revenue, increasing out island accessibility could produce a ‘multiplier effect’ as visitors would be inclined to spend money in the local island economies.
Yesterday, Chandler Sands, president of Aquamarine Agency Ltd suggested there are more career opportunities to be explored in the marine tourism sector.
“In the past 40-plus years we have been doing very well with land-based tourism and haven’t placed the focus on how we can make in-roads into this part of the industry. The Bahamas is so positioned in that it is the only place outside the US where you can have three or four-day cruises. That is a big plus. We seem to be only interested in what tourists are spending on land.”
For his part, local economist Rupert Pinder argued while this nation has relied heavily on tourism, there needs to be greater linkages between touristic developments and the domestic economy.
“What is happening by in large is that everything is imported and there is very little by way of linkages to the domestic economy. You also have to look at removing impediments to allow for greater entrepreneurial opportunities domestically,” said Pinder.
Pinder also questioned the rationale behind allowing cruise ships to have their own private islands, diverting traffic from Nassau and the level of concession afforded foreign investors.