The Government of The Bahamas will be relentless in its efforts to restore the island of Grand Bahama to the levels of economic prosperity that will allow Grand Bahamians to “earn a living that will more than adequately support them and their families,” Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said in the House of Assembly Thursday.
“As a government, we are singularly committed to the expansion of our economy to ensure an equitable livelihood for all Bahamians. This commitment embraces the people of Grand Bahama,” D’Aguilar said.
“The sustainable growth of the national economy of The Bahamas depends on the economic recovery of Grand Bahama.”
D’Aguilar said the purchase of the Grand Lucayan and its eventual redevelopment could be the catalyst to Grand Bahama’s rebirth — a chance to improve the mood and confidence level on island, and the opportunity to provide a new destination, unique from other islands “and really allow for a proper re-branding of Grand Bahama.”
“Grand Bahama’s awe-inspiring natural assets – outback forests, mangroves, extensive cave systems, miles of secluded beaches and surrounding seas teeming with trophy fish and an underwater wonderland, will easily allow us to entrench the island as an eco-tourism paradise and haven for fishing, diving and birding,” he said.
“On the drawing board are plans to make Grand Bahama a mecca for world-class sporting events from road races, cycling, kayaking, sailing, golf, tennis and sports retreats.”
D’Aguilar said the government’s negotiation of the return of the Grand Celebration Cruise Ship and the introduction of a second ship, the Grand Classica – bringing daily Ferry Service to Freeport from South Florida — have been part of the government’s efforts to bring more stopover passengers to Grand Bahama.
“We have seen significant improvement in the total number of passengers coming to Freeport, and we have now focused all of our incentives in getting more of those passengers to get off the ship and spend a couple of nights in Freeport with the full knowledge that, with daily service, they can stay as long as they want and return whenever they are ready,” he said.
Grand Bahama experienced a seven per cent increase in Cruise/Ferry passengers during the first six months of 2018, which D’Aguilar said was due primarily to the introduction of new and now daily ferry services from South Florida.
D’Aguilar said the increase, which amounted to an additional 26,000 passengers compared to the first six months of 2017, was also a result of the introduction of new incentives “which now pay ferry operators based upon the number of passengers they bring and rewards them even more if those passengers choose to stop over and spend the night in Freeport.”
The Tourism and Aviation minister said officials have already begun to address questions surrounding appropriate levels of airlift into Grand Bahama.
He said American Airlines has “already committed” to a second-day flight from Miami to Freeport in the winter of 2018/2019. Other airline partners have indicated their willingness to work with The Bahamas in bringing additional air seats to the destination once hotel rooms are open and demand picks up.
“The flow of visitors to Grand Bahama is further augmented by nonstop, scheduled/charter flights from Milan, Italy,” he said.
Bahamasair, D’Aguilar said, will also play a vital role in “bringing more airlift to Grand Lucayan.” The minister said he has requested officials at Bahamasair to work together with the Grand Lucayan to immediately create attractive packages to the property.
“Recovery for Grand Bahama is a matter of course because the Ministry of Tourism, in collaboration with major industry stakeholders, has laid out a sound plan of economic expansion for the island,” D’Aguilar said.
“To the people of Grand Bahama, we, the Government of The Bahamas, pledge our resolve to be relentless in our efforts to restore your island to levels of economic prosperity that will allow you to earn a living that will more than adequately sustain you and your families.”
This article was written by MATT MAURA, Bahamas Information Services.