The one single brightest light in The Bahamas recently is the announcement by Crystal Cruise Lines that it intends to make the Prince George Wharf its homeport. I understand that there are other cruise lines which are also considering doing the same. This is a fantastic piece of good news, for a change, and pardon the pun but, like noted realtor and businessman Mr Mario Carey stated the other day, this is a potential “game changer” for our tourism industry and the second home market.
I have long advocated that the best performing ministry is that of tourism and aviation, headed by the hardworking, indomitable and laser-focused Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguillar (FNM-Free Town), bar none. This man is seemingly all over the place crafting and seeking innovative ways to bring our economy back as quickly as possible. Yes, concessions will have to be made if cruise and airline operators are to be drawn back to our shores in the shortest time possible.
Almost 60 percent of our gross tourism and domestic earnings are from tourism. Indeed, for many years it was said that tourism was/is the goose that lays golden eggs. Some 40 odd thousands of Bahamians are/were employed in the hospitality sector before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dorian did some damages but they were correctable. With the pandemic, most individuals, Bahamians included, would have been restricted by health protocols and border closings worldwide from international travel.
Hotel properties were obliged to either close down and lay off staff with no reopening date in sight. This, of course, devastated the local industry and led to massive unemployment, the likes of which many of us have never seen or experienced before. With this good news from Crystal Cruises, we are on track to rebound quickly. We are in an electoral season and even though I am not an FNM, I would strongly urge the competent authority, et al, to give D’Aguillar a “free hand” to deal with and resolve tourism-related issues and concerns.
If Minnis and them were smart people, they would move rapidly to acquire the international airport in Freeport without wasting any more time. That airport needs to be up and running, even while construction and refurbishing are going on. Airlift is critical to the revitalization of Grand Bahama. The return of the cruise ships into GB may take a longer time, but get that airport now. They would also get rid of Our Lucayan even at a fire sale price. The government should never be in the hotel operations and management business.
There will be several casualties, politically, in what might well turn out to be a yellow wave as opposed to a red wave this time around. Whatever happens, if D’Aguillar were to be able to achieve the above, he and others may escape utter destruction. Thank you, Minister D’Aguillar, for your fortitude, hardworking abilities and your visionary plans for our number one and most important industry. To God, then, in all things, be the glory.
Ortland H Bodie Jr
Business consultant and talk show host
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