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News Article

November 23, 2014
BREEF, Department of Marine Resources urge grouper season

Nassau groupers began their spawning season under the first winter full moon in November, while the country awaits word from the minister of agriculture, marine resources and local government on whether the closed season, set to begin on December 1, will be announced.
The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) has pointed out that the December 1 - February 28 closure of the Nassau grouper fishery provides protection for the fish during a time of year when it is reproducing and most vulnerable to overfishing.
"Catching, buying and selling Nassau grouper during the time when they are spawning has led to a complete collapse of the fishery in the U.S. and other countries in the region," BREEF reports, warning that the same scenario is possible in The Bahamas.
The Department of Marine Resources has for several years recommended fixed dates for an annual Nassau grouper closed season, just as there are annual fixed dates for the crawfish and stone crab closures. This would ensure that fishers, seafood vendors and restaurants would be prepared to adapt their product offerings and menus. Until now, the annual closure for Nassau grouper remains at the discretion of the minister responsible for marine resources.
BREEF has also voiced the need for this added protection for the "iconic Nassau grouper".
"With recently approved measures to increase fines for breaking fisheries laws and increased efforts to tackle illegal poaching through increased enforcement, BREEF is optimistic that the government will finally place its stamp of approval on this most sensible recommendation from its own local experts at the Department of Marine Resources," BREEF Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said.
In the meantime, every person living in The Bahamas can help ensure that we will have this fish for the future by agreeing not to catch, buy or sell Nassau grouper from December 1 - February 28, BREEF recommends, urging the public to support fishermen by purchasing other fish during this period.
In 2012 the fishing industry contributed in excess of $80 million per year to the Bahamian economy.

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News Article

November 14, 2014
Culinary students dominate Lukka Kairi food competition

Lukka Kairi, one of the newest restaurants on the food scene will soon open its doors to the public, and it wants to do so with the best Bahamian food possible. As such, the restaurant's principals recently hosted what was known as the Great Bahamian Cook-off to find the best recipes out there to help determine the final menu for the soon-to-be-open restaurant.
Hundreds of entrants submitted samples of their signature dishes in six categories -- peas 'n' rice, macaroni, conch fritters, Johnny cake, fried fish and guava duff. After an adventurous elimination round, each category was left with the top five entrants who all converged at Choices Restaurant at the Culinary Hospitality Management Institute (CHMI) to prepare their signature dishes from scratch for a panel of judges.
The surprise hit of the day were the amateur entrants from CHMI, who won three of the six categories. Darleen Johnson's macaroni was a hit with not only the judges but the other chefs as well; Ruby Marie Nottage made a mean conch fritter, and Aliea Rolle's Johnny cake had judges begging for a good stew to go with it.
"I'm ecstatic and just overwhelmed with joy to have the best macaroni in The Bahamas," said Johnson.
For Nottage, it would not have been a success without family support.
"I'm in shock, but I'm glad that I won," she said. "I want to thank everyone here, especially my assistant, my Aunty Rhonda and my teachers."
Winning the event was more than a reward -- it was a boost of self-esteem for Rolle. "I feel pretty good about winning. I wasn't as confident in the beginning but now I'm very excited."
Tony Clarke took the fish category; while Michael Turner, a veteran baker, claimed the guava duff division. Jason Johnson took home the award for best peas 'n' rice.
Now under construction in Downtown Nassau, Lukka Kairi which is anticipated will be the hottest all-Bahamian restaurant overlooking Prince George Wharf will give patrons not only a great view of the harbor, but an authentically fantastic Bahamian experience.
The cook-off was a great experience for Lukka Kairi Executive Chef, Alpheus Ramsey, who credits his mother's cooking with getting him into the industry.
"I loved my mother's cooking -- that down-home, Family Island flavor. That's what I'm looking for and I'm finding a lot -- the dry conch... the salt beef. Some folks have their own twist, but the basic flavors are there, and that's what counts," he said.
Deriving its name from the native tongue of the Lucayan Indians, the country's first known inhabitants, the Lukka Kairi Restaurant promises to boast a 100 percent Bahamian look and feel from the entrance to the balcony and beyond. The restaurant's owners are ensuring that their patrons have an authentic, yet high-end, Bahamian experience. Completely designed and outfitted by Bahamian carvers and craftsmen, Lukka Kairi will transition from an upbeat atmosphere during the day to a more relaxed and contemporary facade in the evening.

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News Article

September 11, 2013
Atlantis employees make back-to-school donations

Scores of students who call the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home their home are returning to school this fall semester equipped to take on another year of classroom learning thanks to Team Mosaic.
In an effort to give back and show their love and appreciation for the Bahamian community, team members from Mosaic Restaurant banded together and hosted a back-to-school drive in support of the youngsters at the home.
"We at Mosaic -- Front of House division -- have committed ourselves to the effort of giving back and we all agreed that the best focus we can have is on our nation's youth, the future of this great country called The Bahamas," said restaurant manager, Shawn Saunders.
"Back-to-school is an important time for so many youngsters. We all fully understand that our economy is still in the process of recovering and so we decided to put our attention to those youngsters who are less fortunate, specifically those at the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home, and help them prepare for the start of another school year," he said.
Book bags, books, pens, pencils, pens, rulers crayons and notepads were among the items donated to the thankful youngsters and staff.
"We all firmly believe that if you willingly give from the heart, the benefits are bountiful and bountiful were the smiles on the faces of those kids. Both the kids and their guardians expressed a high sense of gratitude which we truly appreciated. This is what can happen when we all come together for one goal," said Saunders.
The Pointe gives back
Although small in size, the team at The Pointe decided to lend a helping hand and give back to the community through a donation of school supplies to Great Commission Ministries located on Wulff Road.
Great Commission Ministries is an organization which assists the less fortunate on a daily basis wherever possible. The donation is the team's way of making a positive impact, albeit a small one, in the community.

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News Article

March 29, 2011
(VIDEO) Welcome to Nassau / Paradise Island

Nassau and Paradise Island, The Bahamas -

Prepare to be awed by Nassau Paradise Island. One of the most popular
ports of call for cruise ships and home to the #1 family resort in the
Caribbean region, Nassau Paradise Island is the island with something
for everyone. You will find the perfect mix of water sports, historical
tours, shopping, golf, casino gaming, restaurants and nightlife.

In
this video you will hear from Brooks & Ryan Russell of High Seas
Excursion; Clee J Vigal of Stuart's Cove; Eldina Miller of Exclusive
Bahamian Crafts; Donovan Ingraham...

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News Article

March 14, 2011
Bamboo Shack eyes US franchise growth

By ALISON LOWE

Business Reporter

alowe@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian restaurant chain, Bamboo Shack, aims to begin franchising the business in the United States "within about another year and a half", its owner said yesterday, revealing that it is bucking trends with steadily increasing growth.

Elaine Pinder, Bamboo Shack's proprietor, spoke with Tribune Business yesterday, just over a week after the popular food vendor opened its sixth New Providence location on Prince Charles Drive. Twenty employees were taken on to man that site.

She said the company continues to look for appropriately positioned real estate on which it could build additional locations, with southern New Provi ...

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News Article

August 31, 2013
Preparing for VAT

The government has set July 1, 2014 as the date for the biggest change to the Bahamian tax system in recent memory. It plans to bring forward a value-added tax (VAT), to create a central revenue service and to cut many customs duty rates.
To inform the people of what will take place the government has published a white paper on VAT that is available for all to see on its website. The government has also pledged a significant public relations campaign to help educate the Bahamian people on the proposed new tax.
The government will have challenges with this education effort. In its white paper, it admits that VAT is one of the more complicated taxes. It involves multi level taxation up the chain of production and distribution and it also includes rebates for some.
The Bahamas has challenges with education. The public school system in New Providence has an average in the national exams somewhere not too far from an F. The technical language of the white paper is inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of our population.
Sweeping tax reform requires the understanding and consent of the people. If the people think something they don't understand is being forced on them, and it leads to a higher cost of living, the political party that did the deed will pay at the polls. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration should know this.
While one challenge for the administration will simply be breaking VAT down for regular Bahamians to understand, there are some fundamental questions that will be asked by those who do understand. These are questions the white paper does not answer.
It remains unclear how the imposition of VAT will impact the cost of goods and services across the board.
In fact, the white paper acknowledges that the government is unable at this time to indicate comprehensively either way.
"The effect of VAT on prices will vary as between goods and services and, within the goods category, the effect will depend on the current taxation of individual goods.
The final impact on the price of goods will depend on the extent of reductions in import tariff rates flowing from accession to the WTO," according to the white paper.
The government attempts to reassure the public by saying that agricultural, food and certain other products that currently benefit from duty free status under the Tariff Act will also be exempt from VAT.
"Similarly, the services also proposed to be exempt from VAT, such as health and education services, etc., should experience no direct change in price under a VAT system," the white paper adds.
However, Bahamians will simply want to know how much more expensive items at the grocery store will be as a result of this proposed change. How much more expensive will clothing and electronics be? Is there a tax for using the already expensive services of lawyers? Will there be a 15 percent tax at restaurants on top of the 15 percent charged for gratuity?
To answer some of these questions, the government would have to announce its full range of cuts to customs duties. Other answers may be so unacceptable to the people that the government may have to alter its position.
When the official education campaign begins, business owners and professionals will have many questions for the government and its representatives, as will concerned citizens who can understand the magnitude of the change. It is necessary for the government to ensure that it works out the answers to the obvious questions Bahamians will ask before it starts the talking and education tour.
Prime Minister Perry Christie led the government's communications effort on gambling. He was not well versed on the subject. He confused the issue and said things that were contradictory. The people noticed and rejected the referendum - an initiative the governing party hoped Bahamians would support.
Government bureaucrats and the PLP should not just assume Bahamians will accept VAT because international advisory agencies said we should try it. The people have to think it is better for them and the country. They know little of the details of this move now. If this tax reform is to succeed they must know more and agree to it by the implementation date.

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News Article

November 10, 2010
Dune celebrates 10 years

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the world's most famous chefs and restaurateur. The One&Only Ocean Club is iconic. Twelve years ago, the famed chef was approached by Kerzner CEO Sol Kerzner to bring his fame and talent to the exclusive Paradise Island property. In October, they celebrated the 10th anniversary of the perfect pairing that is the Dune restaurant.
For the special occasion, the Michelin-starred chef came up with a spectacular four-course wine-tasting menu, which fuses recipes from his New York restaurants with traditional Bahamian influences. The special menu is being served through the end of November in celebration. Chef Jean-Georges himself was in The Bahamas and prepared ...

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News Article

August 24, 2014
Bahamian brothers to open four Baha Mar restaurants

A Bahamian-owned company has been selected to open four restaurants within the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel.
The move is set to lead to the hiring of as many as 400 people and the raising of tens of millions of dollars locally, Guardian Business understands.
The Skandalaris brothers, Johnny, Tony and Manoli, known for their ownership and development of Skans restaurant in downtown Nassau and, more recently, the popular Olives Meze Grill restaurant and ar on Cable Beach, are partners in the company with others, sources have disclosed.
Contacted for comment on Friday, Johnny Skandalaris confirmed that he and his brother are involved with the development of some restaurants in Baha Mar, but declined to comment further.
The $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort had planned for a December 2014 opening, but recently announced that it would push back its grand opening to spring 2015.
The restaurants are under development at present, Guardian Business understands.
Since it opened in 2011, Olives, located a short distance from Baha Mar, has become one of Nassau's most popular restaurants/bars. In late 2013, the business expanded due to overcrowding of its original space, extending its hours at the same time.
An official announcement from Baha Mar is anticipated within the coming week.

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News Article

April 11, 2012
Dunkin' Donuts launches PI store

A new Dunkin' Donuts franchise will throw its doors today on Paradise Island, bringing with it 20 new jobs.
The grand opening marks the sixth Dunkin' Donuts in the country.
Similar to the existing downtown location across from the British Colonial Hilton, the new restaurant in Paradise Village expects to capture a diverse clientele, including local residents, tourists and the corporate crowd.
It is the second fast-food restaurant to open on Paradise Island in as many months, both falling under the Myers Group.
George Myers, the chairman and CEO of the group, owns the rights to a number of Bahamian franchises, including Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Quiznos Subs and Dunkin' Donuts.
"The new store provides the opportunity to serve a new market, visitors to the country on Paradise Island as well as residents and those that work there," said Ash Henderson, director of marketing at Restaurant Services Limited. "It's a good cross section and plays well into the franchise's brand awareness."
The Myers Group has rebuilt the interior of the store to comply with the Dunkin' Donuts brand. It has also purchased new equipment and is constructing a new ceiling, Henderson reported, although the exact investment in the store is unknown. He confirmed to Guardian Business, however, that the restaurant will create 20 new jobs for Bahamians.
Other Dunkin' Donuts locations include a store in Oakes Field, the downtown location, and three outlets at Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Henderson said the company is looking to possibly add more locations.
"Bahamians have responded very well to the brand and they enjoy the beverages and food. We're looking at a number of other areas to better serve the island," he explained.
In a previous interview, Henderson indicated there is room for possibly eight to nine Dunkin' Donuts franchises in New Providence.
In March, Guardian Business sat down with Nigel Travis, the worldwide CEO of Dunkin' Brands, when he flew into Nassau for the corporation's international conference.
He agreed that the brand benefits from a number of advantages in The Bahamas. Language is not a barrier, he said, and high brand awareness and intimacy with the U.S. market mean the products are a hit with Bahamians.
In regards to the downtown location, and now the Paradise Island store, he anticipated strong sales from a bustling cruise ship industry.
"I think one of the unique characteristics is the sheer amount of traffic from the cruise business," Travis told Guardian Business. "I think it's going through a tough time at the moment, but every time I look out there, I see big ships. I think they warm to seeing Dunkin' Donuts. You tend to gravitate towards it."

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News Article

January 16, 2013
Major ladies softball championship set for The Bahamas

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - The prominence of The Bahamas in the region as a softball power will hopefully again be realised as the country prepares to host the initial English Caribbean Ladies Softball Championship and World Games qualifier in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The event will be held at the softball stadium of the Grand Bahama Sports Complex on the rescheduled dates of January 23-27.
The class of English Caribbean women's softball, namely Jamaica, the British Virgin Islands, the Turks & Caicos Islands, Aruba, and Belize have been attracted to The Bahamas for this special event after the original host had to withdraw its offer and the event was in danger of being canceled. It would have been an opportunity lost for women's softball in The Bahamas and the English Caribbean region.
This initial, rare opportunity is one in which The Bahamas feels its ladies team can be successful and go on to represent the country in Colombia in July of 2013 at the International Softball Federation's (ISF) World Games.
Hosting the championship in Grand Bahama became an option when The Bahamas' National Sports Authority advised that needed repairs to the facility in New Providence could not be completed by the proposed dates. For Grand Bahama this date is set and with much needed corporate and community support the event could assist the island's economy greatly.
It is estimated that it will produce about 400 hotel room nights and attract nearly 200 visitors who will shop in Bahamian stores, enjoy Bahamian restaurants, rent cars and experience a taste of Grand Bahama.

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News Article

May 07, 2013
Swift Swimming to compete in U.S. Masters Championships

The Swift Swimming Masters Swimming Program will once again be attending the U.S. Short Course National Swimming Championships.
A total of seven swimmers from Swift Swimming, namely Percy Knowles, Andy Knowles, Nancy Knowles, Jeremy Knowles, April Savage, Elliott Knowles and Andrew Higgs will compete in the fastest Masters meet in the United States, at the famous Indianapolis Natatorium in Indiana.
May 2013 will start with a splash and end with the roar of engines in Indianapolis, with Spring Nationals happening May 9-12 and the Indy 500 on May 26. The U.S. Masters Swimming national championship event returns for a sixth time to the renowned IU Natatorium on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. The competition pool is 50 meters (m) long and 25 yards wide. Two moveable bulkheads will allow simultaneous competition in two eight-lane, 25-yard courses. The pool is nine feet deep at the ends and 10 feet deep in the center.
The water temperature is maintained at 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Seven lanes of warm-up space will be available in the diving well, with six more lanes in the 50-meter instructional pool. At least one lane for swimmers over age 65 will be available at all times. With a seating capacity of 4,700, the natatorium provides more spectator space than any other permanent pool in the United States. Additional swimmer seating will be provided on the pool deck. More than 100 American records and 15 world records have been set in the pool.
"It's a world-record-setting kind of pool - people usually swim very well here," said meet director Kris Houchens. She's heard that dozens of former participants plan to return. Many top-caliber swimming competitions have been hosted at IUPUI, including the 1984, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Trials; the 1987 Pan American Games; the 2009 ConocoPhillips National Championship and the World Championship Trials.
The pool is conveniently located downtown, less than a half-mile walk from many meet hotels and close to restaurants and cultural sites. Circle Center Mall and Victory Field, the site of the meet social, are a short stroll away. A total of eight miles of bike and pedestrian trails, connecting downtown hotels, cultural districts, restaurants and attractions, will be completed before the Spring Nationals. Festivities surrounding the 97th Indianapolis 500 car race will be in full swing in May. The 500 events associated with the 500 Festival will kick off with the best-attended half marathon in the United States on May 4.
As far as the Bahamian Swift swimmers are concerned, they will compete at their eighth consecutive U.S. Masters Nationals. Percy Knowles will compete in the 80-84 age group in the 50, 100, and 200 breaststroke; 50 free and 100 Individual Medley (IM) events. Andy Knowles will compete in the 55-59 age group in the 100, 200, 500 and 1,650 free and the 200 and 400 IM. Nancy Knowles will swim in the 55-59 age group in the 50 fly and 300 and 500 free events. Andrew Higgs will compete in the 46-49 age group in the 50 and 100 breaststroke and the 50 free events. Jeremy Knowles will compete in the 30-34 age group in the 50, 100 and 200 butterfly; 50 breast, 100 and 200 IM events. April Savage will compete in the 25-29 age group in the 50 breast, 50 fly and 100 IM events, and Elliott Knowles will compete in the 25-29 age group in the 50 and 100 free. All swimmers will also compete in several relays. According to Andy Knowles, their goal is to improve on their entered times, win more medals than last year and to visit more restaurants and eat more ice cream in celebration of their swims.

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News Article

January 22, 2013
Sandals eyes 75-room growth in Exuma

The chairman of Sandals Resorts International is considering a 75-room expansion to his Exuma property, noting there is "ample capacity" for growth.
Gordon 'Butch' Stewart said Sandals Emerald Bay has undergone an extensive "Sandalization" program to bring the resort up to Sandals' standards. That included the addition of a new pool, restaurants and weddings locations, in addition to "totally reviving" the Greg Norman championship golf course.
"We've since added more luxurious rooms and suites and restaurants and there is ample capacity for further expansion," he told Guardian Business. "Ideally, we'd love to add another 75 rooms and suites and are looking into the
possibility of that in the future."
Stewart noted, however, that the expansion is not fully confirmed at this stage.
The tentative approach is understandable considering the chain's recent challenges in Exuma.
Like many destinations on the Family Islands, maintaining consistent airlift and keeping operating costs down are key factors to achieving profitability. Sandals recently expressed concern over the resort's continued sustainability on Exuma, prompting a strong sign of support from the Bahamian government.
David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism, revealed yesterday at Caribbean Marketplace that "realizing the potential and profitability in the long run requires more capacity", calling Sandals Emerald Bay "relatively small" for the brand.
First on the agenda, however, is boosting the resort's occupancy by up to 20 percent.
"We have talked about the expansion," he said. "That is the next phase. But first, they need to get healthy."
Johnson noted that Sandals has heavily subsidized planes coming into Exuma to ensure profits. The resort was funding airlift in an "imbalanced way", he added, and it was indeed an unsustainable situation. The government has since chipped in and taken on some of that burden, as well as helping them with other operating costs, according to Johnson.
Four Seasons, a premier international brand, closed down in Exuma back in 2009. Sandals scooped up the property the next year and pumped tens of millions into its revitalization.
The resort is the number one employer on the island and serves as the heart of Exuma's economy.

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News Article

May 11, 2011
Jerome Gomez on foreign investment in restaurant, entertainment sector

Fund Administrator for the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund Jerome Gomez expressed his thoughts on the elimination of restrictions on foreign investment in the Bahamian restaurant and entertainment industry during a luncheon held yesterday.
“I am personally calling for the immediate reversal of this new policy because it wil impact the little or small man negatively in the long run, and represents giving away a key sector of the Bahamian economy previously reserved for Bahamians to foreigners in an industry that does not require special, scarce or unique skills and resources.
“I see no good coming out of this policy change.
“From this enunciation to now, I, as have m ...

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News Article

January 25, 2011
Mamadoos Restaurant offers you Lunch, Dinner and Sunday Brunch

Freeport, Grand Bahama Island - In
May 2010, the proprietors of  Island Java located in Port Lucaya, began
operations of a new restaurant in the Port Lucaya Marketplace on Grand
Bahama Island. The restaurant is known as Mamadoo's Restaurant, or
simply

Mamadoo's where local cuisine meets Bahamian creativity.

The Restaurant features a signature line of innovative Bahamian
inspired seafood and barbeque dishes, with gourmet pizzas/flat
bread along with fruit infused vodka like sappa dilly, love vine, guava,
mango and tamarind...

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News Article

August 25, 2010
Bahamian Breakfast Favorites available at Le Med Restaurant daily

Freeport, Grand Bahama Island - Truly Bahamian breakfast awaits you daily at  Led Med,  Mediterranean Restaurant located on the marina at Port Lucaya.

Delicious Stew Fish, Boiled Fish, Chicken Souse, Stew Conch, Corned Beef and Grits are all available every morning at Le Med.

So when you're craving a tasty Bahamian breakfast made homemade style, head to Le Med.

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News Article

November 21, 2013
Thanksgiving is not Bahamian

As the Thanksgiving holiday looms, a local religious leader has urged Bahamians not to get carried away with the spirit of the North American holiday but to use the time to celebrate Bahamian traditions and history.
In a statement released this week, Reverend Canon Sebastian Campbell, rector of St. Gregory's Anglican Church, took issue with the fact that many Bahamians celebrate Thanksgiving, teach its history in public schools and take part in related feasts. He urged Bahamians to ignore the North American "cultural invasion" and focus on local customs and history during this time.
"Let us cut to the chase," Campbell said. "The average Bahamian is brainwashed and, or, mis-educated when referring to this time of the year simply as Thanksgiving.
"This is not America; we've had a cultural invasion and are ignorant to it. Our [public] schools do a whole lot of mental damage this time of the year that, if not checked, will be a lever in the continued transplanting of our Bahamian cultural heritage.
"I have sat through many a school assembly and endured teachers pontificating on the pilgrim fathers, and then to reinforce this with our impressionable children doing skits and songs on the first Thanksgiving and it's ongoing development and influence on life, as though all this is a part of our Bahamian history which they assert we should justifiably celebrate. We have a case here of the blind leading the blind."
Campbell also said more focus should be placed on local cuisine during celebrations and lamented the fact that American fast food has permeated Bahamian culture, sometimes pushing local restaurants out of the market.
"The cultural onslaught invades further at the level of our stomach," he said.
"It is in our schools; after these thanksgiving assemblies teachers barricade themselves to gobble down the American dishes of ham, turkey, pumpkin pie, etc. This behavior is an insult to our cultural heritage, and to our good and gracious God who has made us uniquely Bahamian.
"We are a peculiar people with peculiar blessings, a peculiar heritage and thus a peculiar history. Next to no leadership comes from anywhere in this cultural onslaught."
The end of November is traditionally a time to celebrate the harvest, Campbell said, as he urged Bahamians to use the time to give thanks for the blessings God has bestowed on the country.
"We Bahamians must show our thankfulness to God for his blessings on us as Bahamians. We must count our blessings. We are no celebrants of ham and turkey. This is American. Stop trying to be that which we are not.
"God has blessed us with Long Island mutton, wild boar from Inagua, Andros crab, grouper and conch from our water. Can we show appreciation for Cat Island flour cake and Eleuthera pineapple, even when turned upside down? Yes, and good old peas soup n' dough seasoned with dry conch and salt beef. Oh yes, by now we have the message. We wash all that down with good old switcher or sky juice. Depending on our religious background, we can spice up these drinks even further."

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News Article

June 05, 2014
Govt grants 683 million in duty concessions

Revealing that the government forewent $683 million in import duty for this fiscal year in the form of concessions and incentives, which it sees as necessary to remain competitive as a destination for investment, Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle said this should generate a $2 billion revenue windfall in return.
Pointing to the "real structural" and profitability challenges which investors in this country face as part of the rationale for the incentivizing concessions, Rolle said that for each dollar of revenue foregone in this manner the government expects to recoup $3.04 in return.
"There is a perception that major developers do not make a significant contribution to The Bahamas economy in exchange for the incentives received. Based on the estimated total value of approved concessions as at May 2013, for every $1 in concessions provided by the government, in 2013 alone these hotels are expected to generate $0.52 in taxes/fees and payments made to government and its corporations, and $0.83 in salaries, wages and employee benefits for 10,000-plus employees, 98 percent of whom are Bahamians. It is also estimated that direct spending in the economy is $0.69.
"The country front-loads a promissory note to an investor for a dollar and we get $2.04 back at a later date. So essentially we get $3 back because we don't come out of pocket.
"Overall, these annual payments represent more than seven percent of GDP (gross domestic product), before the full opening of Baha Mar," he added.
Rolle was addressing Parliament when he made his comments as part of his contribution to the 2014/2015 budget debate.
His comments come as U.S. consultants for the government, Compass Lexecon, disclosed in its study on tax and fiscal reform needs in The Bahamas that this country ranks 92 out of 98 countries when it comes to its tax-to-GDP ration, collecting just 40 percent of its maximum attainable revenue in this regard, in part because of concessions given to investors.
Earlier this week, Guardian Business reported that Oxford Economics, consultants to the Coalition for Responsible Taxation, pointed to a 46 percent "effective collection rate" for import duty in The Bahamas, due to a combination of evasion, concessions and other factors.
Rolle disclosed that approvals for duty-free importation under the Hotels Encouragement Act increased by almost four times this fiscal year, from $138.5 million to $683 million.
Bahamian ownership
Turning to the common refrain that Bahamians do not benefit from concessions as foreign investors do, Rolle said that duty-free concessions under the Hotels Encouragement Act between 2012 and 2014 for new construction, additions and renovations for hotels with Bahamian ownership or part-ownership amounted to $304 million.
The vast majority of these concessions related to Exuma, where $274.5 million in concessions was provided in relation to eight hotel properties.
"Bahamian entrepreneurs are investing in the tourism sector of our economy. Some are in joint-venture partnerships with other Bahamians and others with foreign partners. Island by island Bahamian investors are developing boutique resorts and other tourism and industrial businesses which play an important economic role, particularly in the Family Islands, where the impact of these investments creates multiple jobs and opportunities for Bahamians."
Rolle pointed to an amendment to the Hotels Encouragement Act in 2008 and 2009 - to include entertainment facilities, nightclubs, restaurants and shops in designated areas - as one which has been well-received by Bahamian entrepreneurs in particular.
"They are taking advantage of the import duty concessions to assist in jump-starting their business and help reduce the challenges associated with start-up costs," he said.
Concessions granted to businesses under this amendment total $926,370 for May 2012 to June 2013 and for the following year - July 2013 to May 2014 - the total grew to $6.2 million.
Laying out the rationale for such concessions, Rolle noted the findings of a recent study commissioned by the government on concessions and incentives regionally, which looked at how those offered by The Bahamas compared to regional competitors' regimes to encourage investment.
The study was commissioned as the government considered how it might "rationalize" the incentives and subsidies it currently offers to investors in The Bahamas, and how this might impact investment inflows into the country.
Among the key findings, Rolle suggested, was that most countries have a program of subsidies and incentivizes for investors in place "supporting the basic assumption that it is a requirement to be a globally competitive player".
In addition, hotel profitability in the Caribbean lags that of the United States, while profitability in the Bahamian hotel sector is believed to lag both.
'Real structural factors'
Developments in The Bahamas move ahead in the face of significant "real structural factors", said Rolle, commenting on the findings of the study.
He said: "In addition to demand-side pressures on the top line in the resort sector, the study suggests that several key operational and structural issues confront the sector across The Bahamas, regardless of location or size. They are as follows: the high cost of energy - Bahamas Electricity Corporation's rates are amongst the highest in the region; challenges related to workforce development, driven by a gap in basic, technical and soft skills; productivity continues to be problematic, and concerns around tax reform."
Resorts operating outside New Providence face further challenges including even higher operating costs; limited affordable and available airlift; shortages of skilled labor; more costly marketing and greater infrastructural needs.
"While data on current Bahamian hotel profitability is limited, it is believed to lag both the United States and Caribbean performance due to: higher salaries and in some cases lower employee productivity; higher electricity rates, and higher pilferage and wastage rates.
"It should be noted that industry profitability is measured on a pre-tax basis," he added.
Rolle noted that the study revealed that regional competitors use a wide range of incentives to encourage tourism development. Of the jurisdictions reviewed, the most consistent investment incentive offered, with the exception of Cancun, was the reduction, or abatement, of import tariffs on materials and equipment used in the construction and fit-out of hotels.
Where a number of other countries contrasted with The Bahamas was in the fact that they limited the ability to access these incentives to specific time periods, projects of a certain size, or location.
"A variety of approaches are taken to incentives related to real estate taxes including limiting the exemption to improved value (Barbados) and reducing the stamp duty/transfer tax on property sales (Cayman Islands)," added Rolle.
City of Nassau
The minister said that there was a decline in applications for concessions under the City of Nassau Revitalization Act for the period July 2013 to May 2014, with the total for duty-free concessions for this period standing at $2.2 million.
"The preceding year, May 2012 to June 2013, the total concessions approved totaled $9.96 million. However, I believe the decline in applications is due to an increase in the number of applicants under the Hotels Encouragement (Amendment) Act," said Rolle.
He added: "The Bahamas is one of the many destinations for investments. Even though this is a very emotional topic because of the imbalance between local and foreign investment, the reality remains that foreign direct investment (FDI) is needed for us to survive as a nation.
"Until such time as someone a lot smarter than most of the global population can provide the world with a viable alternative to FDI, we should work towards extracting greater benefits and greater alignment for local investors."
However, Rolle noted that while it is clear that large scale developers make a significant contribution to the economy there is, nevertheless, room to standardize and restrict the concessions granted.

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News Article

February 20, 2013
SureTrader targets 25M in revenue

An online brokerage launched early last year is reporting more than 100,000 equity transactions each day, a figure that far exceeds all other Bahamian firms combined.
SureTrader.com, listed with the Securities Exchange of The Bahamas since January 2012, has increased its staff to eight Bahamians and filled out its 4,000-square-foot office at Elizabeth on Bay. The firm plans to hire up to 20 more people by the end of this year and currently seeks professional Bahamians amid expansion, according to its founder Guy Gentile.
The parent company, Swiss American Securities Limited, is also the founder of SpeedTrader.com, a U.S. online trading broker with around $20 million in annual revenue.
Gentile told Guardian Business that SureTrader.com is poised to earn $25 million in annual revenue in 2013.
"What gives us our edge is superior trading technology and a New York business approach," he said. "I operate a lean aggressive staff that has a strong desire to be the best. Not only the best in The Bahamas, but the best in the world."
Gentile added that SureTrader.com hopes to open 5,000 new accounts in 2013 after opening 2,000 in 2012. The firm wants to become the largest brokerage in The Bahamas by revenue in 2014.
"We have given ourselves an advantage by offering extended margin leverage of 6-1 compared to 3-1 in Canada and 4-1 in the U.S. We have the largest short list in the industry, we allow shorting in penny stocks, and you can fund an account easily with a credit card. There are no restrictions on day trading," he added.
Later this year, Swiss American plans to widen its project offerings through Canadian stock and options, Gentile said, and by connecting VISA debit cards to the accounts.
Following a staffing boost, the firm also wants to offer a customer service line and eventually go to 24 hours after adding European trading. The company has recently aligned itself with RBC Royal Bank, Interactive Brokers, ETC Clearing and DAS Trader.
Gentile, a U.S. investor, remains the largest tenant in the Elizabeth on Bay plaza, located on East Bay Street. He has invested approximately $400,000 into the new SureTrader.com office, with an additional $1.5 million or so in Sur Sushi.
The latter is expected to open in the coming weeks.
Back in December, Gentile reported that the restaurant has received more than 500 applications. Only 45 Bahamians will be hired for the trendy, new restaurant. Blu, formerly located across from the up-and-coming Sur Sushi, closed its doors late last year and put dozens of Bahamians out of work. Investors hope Gentile and his business ventures will help re-energize the plaza and East Bay Street.

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News Article

June 21, 2011
Sandals a major contributor to Exuma

Dear Editor,

I make the following comments as a concerned Exumian who is tired of non-Exumians trying to stop the growth and progress of the Island.
It appears that some PLP politicians in their quest for power are prepared to jeopardize the future of the people of Exuma by frustrating the largest single private employer on the island.  They are treating Sandals, which is responsible for the livelihood of hundreds of Exumians and their families, as though it is not appreciated in our country.

The truth is that Sandals Emerald Bay has provided a safety net for many people on the island whose hopes were dashed when the Four Seasons hotel closed.

When Sandals came on the scene most of the commercial airlines had terminated their services even before the departure of Four Seasons, the previous operator.

Today, after just 12 months of operations, Sandals has been able to attract carriers such as Air Canada, Continental Connections, American Eagle, US Air, Delta and the domestic carriers Bahamasair, SkyBahamas and Western Airlines.

Sandals has also honored the existing agreements with Exuma Transit for the transportation of guests.

The charge of poor treatment of its employees by the hotel is totally false as is the complaint about the presence of Jamaicans on the property.
Sandals is a Jamaican investor with core expertise provided by Jamaicans who are hardworking people with good work attitudes worthy of emulation.
The fact is that as a major Caribbean and International hotel chain, Sandals employs Bahamians in a number of its hotels in its host countries including the Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, Antigua and Jamaica.

Interestingly, no mention has been made of the many foreign nationals who worked with the former Four Seasons hotel and who treated Bahamian workers so badly.  I don't recall any complaint being made about them.

As far as the charge of under-payment of staff is concerned, the government of The Bahamas has established a minimum wage.  Any employer who pays workers below the minimum is in breach of the law.  Anyone with proof that this is the case at Emerald Bay, should report the matter to the Department of Labour.

Indeed, the staff of the hotel should be made to understand that the property can only pay what it can afford and that higher wages could mean less staff and not so stable employment.

In any given interaction of people there will be problems; even in churches. However, I am satisfied that the resort is doing much more than its predecessor in trying to better relations with all its public.
In recent times, the hotel has been managed by some of the finest professionals of Sandals: Jeremy Mutton and Patrick Drake.

Significant efforts have been made in introducing a wide range of programs to train and upgrade staff, foster professionalism, enhance staff morale and reach out to the community and business sectors.

The hotel has introduced a wide range of programs to address training and personal development at every level, as well as entry level certification for school leavers in hospitality training and the introduction of an apprenticeship program.

In addition, there are numerous programs to enrich and enhance the everyday life of workers including luncheons, breakfasts, bingos and other recreational activities as well as access to a barber shop which provides concessionary rates to employees.

Through the Sandals Foundation, several projects are helping to transform schools and civic amenities on the island in an unprecedented manner.
For the first time in the history of Exuma, the island is blessed with a hotel choir which is a big hit whenever it appears at local churches and civic functions.

Since the acquisition of the hotel, millions of dollars have been spent on renovation and upgrading facilities, including the addition of 62 rooms, thereby increasing the capacity of the resort from 183 rooms to 245 rooms.  Also, some 60 additional persons have received employment as a result of this project.
In addition, three more restaurants are to be built, providing employment for many more people.
In the current climate of unemployment in Exuma, anyone responsible for providing jobs for over 500 permanent and 100 construction workers ought to be welcomed and respected by everyone.

I believe Exumians need to examine the situation very carefully and not be fooled.  They should never forget the trauma and loss of hope that came with the announcement of the closure of Four Seasons Hotel.  Indeed, Exumians should be very wary of persons, who for selfish political reasons, are trying to destroy their future and the growth and stability that Sandals has brought to this Island.

I can testify that the chairman of Sandals and his entire staff have always extended a hand of friendship to the Member of Parliament for Exuma, Anthony Moss.

It is an indictment on Moss that he has failed to accept invitations he has received from a major investor in his constituency whose operations have impacted the lives, livelihood and future of so many of his constituents.

Yours, etc.,
EVERETTE HART
Former island administrator

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News Article

November 11, 2013
VAT: A regional perspective

A 15-minute video on the impact Value Added Tax (VAT) has had on the twin-island state of St. Kitts & Nevis has been making the social media rounds in recent weeks, posted and re-posted by many Bahamians linked in the online community.
The video, moderated by Rev. Conrad Howell of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), was created ahead of what had been the planned April 1, 2013 implementation of VAT in TCI.
The video features a number of prominent citizens of St. Kitts & Nevis, including business leaders, former Minister of Finance Richard Caines, and also everyday citizens outlining the "negative" impacts VAT has had on their economy since its implementation three years ago.
Business leaders speak of having to close their businesses, of the sharp and sudden rise in the cost of living. Other citizens speak of the stunning decline in their quality of life.
Such reports have increased fears among an already worried Bahamian population preparing for the introduction of VAT at a rate of 15 percent on July 1, 2014.
In the absence of information on the likely impact of VAT on their way of life, and on their economy, many Bahamians view this video as a model of things to come, notwithstanding recent reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that St. Kitts & Nevis is seeing signs of an economic recovery.
Calvin Cable, executive director of the St. Kitts & Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, told National Review that VAT had a "multiplier effect in terms of hardships on the populace".
Cable said a consumption tax was removed and the VAT of 17 percent was introduced.
Two other taxes, the customs duty and the customs service charge, were retained in addition to the 17 percent VAT, he explained.
"It was tremendous on the cost of living," Cable said. "You could have felt it in the number of packages being taken out by householders out of the supermarkets because the prices of goods went up pretty high, maybe about 25 percent overnight."
As a result of VAT, many people in St. Kitts & Nevis cut back significantly, he said; many of them eliminated all luxuries.
"People stopped going out to restaurants to eat and that sort of thing because it was proving to be too much to carry," he said.
VAT is viewed by governments as an attractive option as it taxes both goods and services.
The current narrow based tax system in The Bahamas has long been in need of an overhaul, according to government officials and various international agencies examining The Bahamas' tax structure.
Cable also noted that prior to the implementation of VAT, there were very few charges or taxes on services in St. Kitts & Nevis.
"And so, what the population had to deal with now was that services were being charged VAT, which was not the custom before," he said.
"For instance, doctors fees, lawyers fees, services in the tourism sector -- and I know The Bahamas is big on tourism. For instance, rented cars had to pay the 17 percent."
Cable said VAT provided a "windfall" for the government in taking from the services sector, "but most of that was coming out of the local population".
"So the amount of disposable income that they had on their side was drastically reduced and the buying power was drastically diminished," he said.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, VAT is credited with bolstering the government's fiscal position, but Cable said it happened "on the backs of the local people".
Prior to the implementation of VAT, the country experienced debt levels above 200 percent, which made it one of the world's most indebted countries.
The debt to GDP ratio is now inching closer to the 100 percent mark.
St. Kitts and Nevis' Minister of Information Nigel Carty previously pointed to the "herculean effort that has been exerted to bring great relief to the country's fiscal position at such an economically challenging time".
IMPACT
While The Bahamas' debt situation has not been as dire as that of St. Kitts & Nevis, it has reached a position where it is now unsustainable.
The Bahamas government has outlined its own efforts to bring relief to this country's fiscal position.
As we noted in this space last week, government debt as at June 30, 2014 is projected to be $4.9 billion, compared to $2.4 billion as at July 2007.
Over the last two fiscal years, the government has seen a total deficit in excess of $500 million.
Almost one out of every four dollars in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment.
With a significant change in the country's tax system on the horizon, The Bahamas government has not yet produced any studies to show the likely impact VAT will have on the cost of living.
In every sector, there are understandably questions about how this new regime will affect business.
The man and woman on the street are equally concerned, as they already exist in a climate of high unemployment, where many are finding it hard to meet their obligations and disposable spending has been stretched to the limit.
The government is now asking citizens to shoulder the burden of reversing a burdensome debt situation.
Again, there is no doubting that it is time for action. The chosen route is of course value added tax, which the government says is a central element of its tax reform strategy.
A new IMF report "Tax Reforms for Increased Buoyancy", which was prepared for the government, notes that The Bahamas has low taxes compared to the rest of the world, excluding Central American countries.
It points out that many countries in the region have already introduced VAT, thus providing "a stable source of tax revenues".
The report notes further that almost all the countries in the region have taxes on income and profits. Furthermore, they have high excises on petroleum products.
While The Bahamas is only now moving in the direction of VAT, several of its Caribbean neighbors -- among them, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago -- implemented VAT more than a decade ago.
Speaking of the Barbados experience, Lalu Vaswani, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, described VAT as a "very efficient means of collecting tax as it increases the base on which the taxes can be collected".
"I think it has been a positive impact, although it was not without its challenges," Vaswani said in an interview with National Review.
Vaswani said that prior to the implementation of VAT in Barbados in 1997, the country had as many as 11 different types of duties or imposts that could be charged on imports.
"The increased effectiveness of collecting revenue gave the government more scope to do their development projects," Vaswani said.
"From a business perspective, there are always anxieties associated with changes, and it is always desirable that there is a maximum amount of consultations even when the final positions are not known.
"So there is an understanding from ground level what are the goals, specific objectives and how you propose to do it because very often what you theoretically are trying to do may have a unique challenge, which may be identified before it is implemented and resolved and prevented."
Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur noted in a 2010 interview with Erasmus Williams, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, that high debt levels are inevitable in the absence of a tax base to generate the revenue needed to run a country.
"I supported the VAT when I was in opposition in Barbados because I thought it stood the test of reasonableness, but it was absolutely necessary," said Arthur, whose administration introduced VAT.
"You're living in a set of countries where year by year, period by period, governments will have to remove import duties. What are you going to replace them with? And that is the basic question."
Arthur said VAT created the basis for sustained growth "without fiscal difficulties".
"It allowed us to be able to introduce programs to aggressively mount and sustain policies to eradicate poverty and we did that by creating the base for sustainable growth in the country," he said.
NECESSARY EVIL
The most recent Caribbean country to implement VAT was St. Lucia, which did so just over a year ago at a rate of 15 percent.
Gerard Bergasse, president of the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture, noted that VAT pulls more people into the tax net.
"When you are relying on other forms of taxation, they are not as broad based, so you have a much narrower tax base, which means that the tax on those people has to be higher to achieve your revenue targets," Bergasse told National Review.
"But when you have a broad based tax like VAT, it means that everybody is contributing, so it makes it fairer. And it does not take the fiscal tool out of government's hands because they can still zero rate items, or zero rate a basket of goods that they feel would help less advantaged people."
The Bahamas government's White Paper on Tax Reform notes that zero-rating a supply implies applying a zero VAT rate and allowing credits for VAT paid on inputs.
It says that zero-rating should definitely be applied to exports as a VAT is designed to tax only domestic consumption. Other than that, zero-rating should be strictly limited, if utilized at all, the document says.
Bergasse said that based on anecdotal evidence, many people would say that VAT was a necessary evil in St. Lucia.
"I still believe that VAT was the right thing for the government to have done and it's moving in the right direction," Bergasse said.
He said while the government is not now experiencing a huge windfall, as far as he is aware its revenue targets have been met.
Bergasse said the Chamber of Commerce supported the implementation of VAT from the beginning and was a part of the government's pre-implementation VAT team.
Bergasse pointed to the need for proper consultations ahead of the implementation of VAT.
But he recognized that making VAT understandable to a cross-section of people is "very difficult".
"I will warrant that there are still business people in St. Lucia who still do not understand VAT," Bergasse said.
"...It is a bit of a complicated tax, so it does take people a while to wrap their heads around it and it does make a difference the way your legislation is structured. We didn't get the legislation until very late in the day and even after we got the legislation there are the regulations that go along with it that are very important, because the legislation is the 'what'; the regulations are the 'how'."
He noted that the fundamental change created by VAT is that the business community is changed from being solely taxpayers to being tax collectors.
When properly structured, VAT is a tax on consumption, not business.
In The Bahamas, the proposed VAT legislation and regulations have not yet been released to the public, so the specifics are still unknown.
The government, meanwhile, is planning on increasing public education and awareness in a series of meetings set to begin this week.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the July 1 implementation date is not set in stone and he, as minister of finance, needs to be satisfied that businesses and the country at large are ready for the implementation of VAT.
As the government prepares to intensify public education on VAT, it is hoping to quiet what appears to be growing public sentiment against VAT.

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News Article

April 17, 2014
First edition of Devour! The Beach heralded a success

Abaco's first wine and food festival won "overwhelming support" from locals and visitors alike, according to organizers.
A spin-off of a popular Nova Scotia-based festival, the Devour! The Beach food and wine festival took place at the Green Turtle Club and Marina from March 26-29, attracting a solid attendance.
"Devour! The Beach was an extraordinary cultural event that showcased local cuisine along with the talents of North America's best chefs," said Adam Showell, owner of the Green Turtle Club and Marina. "We are proud to be the host of such a successful event in its first year."
The Bahamian communities warmly embraced the event with the majority of the attendees from Green Turtle Cay, Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour and Nassau.
International attendees travelled from the far corners of North America to join in on the celebrations. Guests came from Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia, Ohio, New York, Tennessee, Connecticut, Florida, and Wyoming.
"Devour! The Beach offered a new product for Abaco and was well-received by visitors and locals alike," said Wynsome Ferguson, manager of Abaco's Bahamas Tourist Office, who was representing the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.
"It gave an economic boost to our economy and commenced our tourist season, attracting newcomers to the destination. Devour! The Beach has great potential for future growth."
The festival's events were near capacity with 70 percent attendance - a great accomplishment for the inaugural event. Despite minor weather interruptions, the beach party, appropriately titled 'Chefs on a Beach', was nearly sold out at the Green Turtle Club.
By the week's end, with four days of wine seminars and culinary indulgences incorporating local ingredients and the varied global backgrounds of all of the chefs, visiting chef, Jean Joho, who owns restaurants in Chicago and Las Vegas, said it was apparent that the event was a success. "The charm of the island, the warmth of the islanders, the appreciation of the attendees and the hospitality of the Green Turtle Resort staff made this a unique experience that I truly enjoyed and one that I would highly recommend," said Chef Joho.
Michael Palij, the festival's master of wine, thoroughly enjoyed his experience, adding: "Devour! That's exactly what I did. I devoured the amazing food prepared by a cadre of North America's leading chefs; I savored extremely fine wine; I absorbed the understated elegance of the unique Green Turtle Club and I reveled in mingling with dozens of like-minded foodies. 2015 - bring it on!"
Devour! The Beach is a spin-off of Devour! The Food Film Festival, based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. The fourth annual Food Film Festival will take place this coming November, and will showcase more than 50 film screenings from across the globe. It will also feature the very best of local and international food and wine and industry sessions with culinary experts on a variety of topics.
"Devour! The Beach is just the beginning when it comes to the full Devour! brand extension," said Executive Director Michael Howell. "We could not have picked a better spot to host the first Devour! satellite event."
Organizers of Devour! The Beach would like thank all of its sponsors: Island Property Management, Sound Harbour House, Spectacle Group, T4G, Infuse Public Relations, Abaco Estate Services, Burns House, John Watling's Run, Big Green Egg and Bahamas Food Services.
"A very special thank you goes to the Green Turtle Club Resort & Marina, Devour! The Beach's official event sponsor and host, along with the staff and management team of the resort, who worked tirelessly to ensure the event's success," said Chef Howell.
Howell also tipped his hat to Abaco's welcoming communities, along with chefs Jean Joho, Michael Howell, Michael Blackie, Tom Fleming, Craig Flinn, Eric Williams and Master of Wine Michael Palij.

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News Article

October 06, 2011
Copa revels in 40 'honeymoon' hike

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- The Bahamas saw a 40 percent hike in visitor arrivals from Latin America for June and July, with Copa Airlines' four-weekly flights behind 98 percent of the increase, according to statistics out of the Ministry of Tourism (MoT).

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Event
Jammin’ for Nature – Earth Day Weekend

Friday 20th April 2012  4:00 PM

One Eleuthera Foundation and their partners present Live from Eleuthera 5 Great Events, 1 Amazing Weekend Be a part of something great this Earth Day weekend! On April 20-22, 2012, the One Eleuthera Foundation and their partners (the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Bahamas National Trust, Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, BREEF, Island School and The Nature Conservancy) presents “Jammin’ for Nature – Earth Day Weekend 2012 Live from Eleuthera!” There are 5 great events planned for 1 amazing weekend in Eleuthera that will be infused with music and will celebrate the heritage and culture of that Island as well as Earth Day. The list of events will delight tourists and residents of Eleuthera and other family Island residents with ties to Eleuthera are encouraged to participate. The events are focused around family and fun and the goal is for everyone to “connect their inner soul to Eleuthera.” There is something for everyone during this weekend! On Friday afternoon, a 3 hour “Welcome Party” kicks off at 4 pm at The Beach House in Governor’s Harbour with focus on the beach environment and well-known artist Barbara de Vries who transforms beach trash and plastic into jewelry and clothing accessories will be featured. The following day on Saturday, one can tour the Island with a North Loop Tour or a South Loop Tour. Later, at Bay Front Park in Governor’s Harbour, there is the “One Eleuthera Cultural Exposé,” a heritage festival like no other that starts at noon and ends at midnight and will be filled with lots of exciting activities and entertainment. The One Eleuthera Foundation will also be launched. On Sunday, Earth Day, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve will be the main focus for the first part of the day where you can immerse yourself in nature. Gospel singer, Brendalee Petty will entertain while well-known Bahamian Artist, Antonius Roberts will sculpt with the Casaurina wood. Guided tours and brunch is available. On the final event, you can join in a worldwide initiative called “Picnic for The Planet” that will take place on Receiver’s Beach in Governor’s Harbour to celebrate Earth Day. More information on the weekend’s events is available at www.oneeleuthera.org “Jammin’ for Nature – Earth Day Weekend” - Event #1 begins on Friday, April 20th from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. with the “Welcome Party at The Beach House.” Join The Nature Conservancy and One Eleuthera for the official Welcome Party of Jammin’ for Nature. The Beach House, nestled on one of Eleuthera’s most spectacular beaches, will serve tapas, wine and cocktails. Artist/designer Barbara de Vries will show her latest collection of Plastic is Forever at the gallery with new jewelry designs, tees and accessories and there will be an exclusive screening of One Beach, a stunning documentary about global beach plastic pollution that features four artists, including Barbara de Vries and her work in Eleuthera. Cover charge for this breathtaking barefoot event is $25 The Beach House restaurant will take reservations for dinner after the reception. Later that evening, visitors and residents are encouraged to visit the “Fish Fry”… a local street party featuring Bahamian cuisine on Anchor Bay Beach in Governor’s Harbour and dance to the sounds of DJ music. Or, one can visit the various restaurants in Eleuthera or catch up with family and friends. More information is available at www.oneeleuthera.org


News Article

December 28, 2011
KFC workers receive partial bonus

Workers at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) received a much-needed boost just in time for Christmas, Guardian Business can confirm, picking up a bonus worth a full week of wages.
Although workers have been promised another bonus equivalent to half a week of pay in January, the rest of the annual payment remains a sharp bone of contention.
Darren Woods, the vice president of the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union, told Guardian Business a further bonus equivalent to another week of pay is a key issue in the talks.
"They made a payment for the Christmas bonus late last week," he said. "Initially they weren't in a position to pay anything. The fact they paid something and gave a commitment to make another payment is a very good thing. But the remaining week is a problem for us."
Woods told Guardian Business that the bonus from last week depended on the seniority of the employee. For workers on the low end, he speculated it worked out to around $250, on average. On the higher end, KFC workers would   received $330.  On a typical year, KFC workers receive a bonus worth two-and-a-half weeks of wages.
"They would have preferred to have received as much as possible up front before Christmas," he added.
Negotiations between the two parties for a new deal first began on Dec 9, and after taking a break for the holidays, they are not expected to resume until the New Year. KFC has insisted that to stay competitive the fast-food chain must reduce wages and benefits, claiming the company is already paying far more than rival restaurants.
Woods said his side is willing to step up at a moment's notice to solve the remaining issues.
"Whenever and wherever, we are always committed. We are cognizant not to do it at the detriment of the business. We want to form a proper alliance and partnership so both sides are happy, if it's possible."
Payment of the remaining week of bonuses will no doubt be on the agenda when the sides meet again in January, along with a slew of other issues sure to impact a large number of Bahamian employees. On Nov 22, KFC sent a letter to the union indicating it would not be in a position to pay some benefits. Representatives of the workers felt the notice came too late.
Dion Foulkes, Minister of Labor, has been involved in the negotiations as a mediator and insisted that progress is being made. The labor agreement between the two parties expired on September 24 of this year.

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News Article

June 08, 2011
Chefs urged: Target 'global driving forces'

By ALISON LOWE
Business Reporter

alowe@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian restaurant, bar and hospitality stakeholders should capitalise on global trends in food and beverages to increase visitor and local customer traffic/revenue, an international gastronomy and beverage consultant said yesterday.

Josué Merced-Reyes, president of InterEmarketing, a food, wine and beverage consulting firm, specialising in the Caribbean and Latin American hospitality industry, provided this advice as he gave insights into the current biggest "driving forces" behind consumers' choice of dinners, desserts and cocktails.

He urged Bahamian stakeholders - including chefs, restauranteurs, hotel food ...

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News Article

July 02, 2011
Simmer down and stirring it up

Chef Devan McPhee remembers vividly the day he went to church and was asked by his pastor what he wanted to be in life. The youngster, seven or eight at the time, thought back to the fact that he had been watching the Food Network before he left out of the house that Sunday morning, having just gotten cable installed, and said he wanted to be a chef because he'd just seen them on television.  His pastor prophesied that young McPhee would be one of the best chefs The Bahamas would see and at a very young age at that.
That pastor's prophecy seems to be coming true as Chef McPhee, now 25, owns his own restaurant and bar.  It was just in May that he signed on the dotted line to lease the Simmer Down Restaurant and Stir It Up Bar at the Marley Resort on Cable Beach where he's certainly simmering some amazing pots and stirring up delicious libations.
Simmer Down Restaurant showcases a fusion of Bahamian and Jamaican food with an international flair as he complements the cuisine with French and European touches and relies on lots of spices and herbs to his foods making him one of the hottest young chefs in the country.
"Our theme in the kitchen is we always cook with love and we serve food prepared with love, and translating that over to the bar, we provide drinks to complement the food," he says.
Even though he's new to the restaurant ownership business, Chef McPhee is not new to the kitchen and definitely not new to the Simmer Down Restaurant kitchen as he was the executive chef prior to the resort closing for 10 months. Upon its reopening, he gladly took charge of his own fate, switching up the menu to reflect his cooking style and his Bahamian heritage, and he's kept some of the old favorites that were hits.
While the menu is exciting all around and offers something for everyone -- including vegetarians, the chef says there are a few menu items that are chef's choice and a must try -- items he considers his signature items.
From the soups, the Lobster and Pumpkin Bisque (infused with ginger and curry, topped with a cinnamon cream dollop) he gives two thumbs up.

"It's a burst of flavors and not what you expect with the fresh ginger, curry and cinnamon cream dollop.  Lobster bisque is standard on restaurant menus, but when you taste the pumpkin in there with the ginger ... the pimentos, the fresh thyme, it's a burst of flavor and then the cinnamon cream dollop mellows it out."
While he says all salads are good, he's most pleased with his Caribbean lobster and mango salad that he says he came up with off the fly.  "I was poaching some lobster for the lobster bisque one day and there was some mango on the table, and I saw the yellow and the white and some cherry tomatoes and I said let's try something.  I marinated it in a passion fruit dressing with fresh basil, ginger ...  I played around with it and I tried it as a chef's special that night with a blueberry balsamic drizzle to go with it to bring out the color, topped it off with fresh greens and toasted coconut and it was a hit."  From that night it made the menu.
If he's sitting down to dine, he opts for a callaloo and spinach vegetable empanada, just to add a different touch to the courses if you're having a three-course meal.  It's also a dish he says vegetarians would appreciate as well as it's healthy.  The baked empanada is a puff pastry stuffed with Jamaican cheddar cheese which he says balances out the flavors of the callaloo and bitterness of the spinach.
The Down Home Roasted Organic Duck (marinated in pineapple and Bacardi rum with island gratin potatoes, broccoli rabe and cinnamon glazed carrots) makes this restaurant owner proud.  It's presented with a sweet potato gratin, garnished with fried plantain and they make a pineapple and coconut rum sauce to go with it.
The Bahamian lobster duo (coconut cracked conch and broiled with a Jamaican vegetable run down, homemade mango chutney and drizzled with a lobster essence) is another menu favorite.  
And you should not leave the Simmer Down Restaurant without trying dessert.  The must have item is the Mama Lur's apples 'n cream (a warm crumble with fresh apples, and fresh guavas with ginger vanilla ice cream and apple cider reduction).
Chef McPhee says he gets his guavas from the islands and freezes them for this dessert, because he says there's nothing like the taste of real guava.  They also make their own ice cream and the dish is topped off with caramelized pecans, crème caramel and finished with toasted coconut.
With a number of other options on the menu, Chef McPhee prefers to keep his menu small and personalized.  But he intends to change the menu with the seasons.  As we are in the summer months, the menu reflects a lot of fruits, colorful sauces and dressings.  In the fall and winter he intends to pull out ingredients like star anise and cinnamon to warm things up, and offer heartier options like rib eye and tenderloin and a lot more soups to go with the cooler temperatures.
With a kitchen staff he handpicked because they had the same vision that he had for the restaurant and bar that he now owns.  "I picked them because I wanted to share my knowledge with tem and I didn't want anyone who would be complacent because they'd been working here prior to the resort closing," said Chef McPhee.  "I wanted to start fresh.  I wanted it to be like night and day and the first thing I did was to reduced menu prices drastically, because people loved the place, but they talked about the prices, and I try to work with the locals pocket," he says.  The chef even offers a daily three-course prix fixe meal special that changes weekly.  For $55 you get a soup or salad and usually it's the lobster bisque or shrimp appetizer; you get a choice of the jerk chicken medallion or the chef's special which is the fish of the day, and a dessert -- either the Mama Lur's Apples and Cream or the Caribbean Chocolate Vibes.
"Going into this I knew I had to do something different, because the place had already existed and try to get that same market, but make it my market," says Chef McPhee.

To make your Simmer Down Restaurant experience unique, he offers a different experience nightly.   He came up with "Taxi Nights" on Monday and Tuesdays to catch the tourist market; Wine Down Wednesdays for people who like wine and free tapas; and Thursday and Fridays are corporate happy hour when he does exotic martinis and specials and Saturdays are known as stirred up and sizzlin'.   A five member jazz band On Cue performs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as well.
At 25, Chef McPhee's future is in his own hands as a restaurant owner, but he says as an apprentice chef while he trained under many great chefs in the hotels, he realized he didn't want that to be him -- working in the same kitchen year after year, becoming programmed.  He wanted to make a name for himself

"Even though it's a risk, the good thing about it is that I took this venture because it's a smaller operation where I could start out small and gradually grow to the level that I want to be at ... and I was already familiar with the place [Simmer Down Restaurant] and it was just a matter of polishing up some stuff, getting the menu together and choosing the right staff."
Chef McPhee credits Chef Addiemae Farrington of the Culinary Hospitality Management Institute, the late Chef Jasmine Clarke-Young, Chef Paul Haywood of Altantis, Chef Wayne Moncur of the Ocean Club and Chef Tracey Sweeting (his former executive chef at the Marley Resort) with giving him the training that has given him so much confidence to do what he's now doing.
"They trained me so well in all areas that I'm able to be creative and do what I'm doing, with hot food because I'm a trained pastry chef," said Chef McPhee.  "They really gave me a good school bag to carry.  I can pull out things and be versatile.  Plus, it's in my heart, and you have to cook with love.  You can have the fancy name, and your food can look pretty, but that passion and soul has to be in it."
Chef McPhee even keeps his kitchen open a little longer than most restaurants, taking his last order at 10:30 p.m. after opening at 6 p.m.
For the chef, the new venture is fun, but scary as he knows he has the livelihood of his staff in his hands.
At Stir It Up Bar he says you have to have the Blue Razzberry Martini and the Jamaica Me Crazy. It just sounds crazy and it's fun and people enjoy them.  I wanted to add my flair to the menu and these are my signature ones.  They're new to the menu, because coming into the restaurant and bar business, I had to bring something new to the table.  I reduced the drink prices too and kept it straight across the board.
It's new, it's scary but fun, because you have the livelihood of staff in your hands and they have to be paid.  "I realize what it is to be an employee and now an employer, even though I'm at a young age.  It's like you have an additional pair of eyes -- you watch everything, things you didn't care about before you now care about -- even on the service aspect. "

CARIBBEAN SPICY SHRIMP APPETIZER WITH POTATO AND SWEET CORN PUREE

6 - 16/20 shrimp
½ oz Jerk seasoning
2 oz homemade ginger and garlic chili sauce
½ oz herb marinade
For the potato and sweet corn puree
½ lb Yukon potato, cooked
4 oz sweet corn puree
3 oz heavy cream
1 oz butter
Sugar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the tropical fruit salsa:
4 oz fresh mango diced
4 oz fresh ripe pineapple diced
1 oz bell pepper fine diced
1 oz  red onion diced
1 oz distilled white vinegar
1 tsp fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 orange
2 oz fresh banana mashed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Honey as needed

Method:
Combine ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and mix together, season to taste with alt and pepper and let stand 30 minutes before serving.

For the shrimp: Season the shrimp with salt and jerk seasoning and herb marinade, let stand 30 minutes. Grill to desired doneness and top with chili sauce, Finish shrimp in the oven and serve.
For the potato and sweet corn puree: Puree ingredient together to desired taste and consistency, season and serve. Garnish with herb oil and chips. Combine all ingredients together and blend thoroughly.
For the tropical fruit salsa: Combine ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and mix together, season to taste with alt and pepper and let stand 30 minutes before serving.

CARIBBEAN MANGO AND LOBSTER SALAD

1 lb spiny lobster meat cooked and sliced
1 oz Spanish onion fine diced
2 oz fresh cherry tomatoes chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 large mangoes
1 oz ginger chopped
1 tsp salt
Salt and fresh goat pepper

1 oz chopped cilantro
1 tsp sugar
4 oz passion fruit dressing

Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl; add enough dressing to bind ingredients. Be sure to season with salt and pepper. Mix, chill and serve. Garnish with micro greens chilled asparagus and a lemon vinaigrette.

MAMA LURR'S APPLES 'N CREAM

4 Granny smith apples
1 can uava shells
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 star anise
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tbs butter
½ oz flour
3 oz home made vanilla ice cream
Toasted coconut
Crumble:
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup flour
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs raisins
2 tbs crushed almonds/ walnuts

Peel and slice apples. In sauce pan melt butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and star anise. Add guavas and sliced apples. Let simmer for about two minutes. Thicken slightly with flour.  Place in bowl and allow to set.

For crumble: Fold in at room temperature butter with the flour into small pieces. Add sugar, raisins, and almonds.  Place on top of apple and guava mixture and bake for 4-8 minutes. Serve with ice cream and add toasted coconut.

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News Article

September 20, 2011
Hands for Hunger helping those in need

Many times people can observe problems in their society, but few can put forth the resources and time needed to resolve them.
In 2008, a group of students wanted to make a difference in their community where so many people went to bed hungry while good food was discarded.  Spearheaded by Alanna Rodgers, they formed the humanitarian organization, Hands for Hunger, and set out to resolve the problem.
"They asked: How can we bridge the gap between hunger in the community and food waste?" says Executive Director of the non-profit, Yolanda Darville.
Modeled after City Harvest out of New York City and Second Harvest out of Canada, Hands for Hunger simultaneously rescues food from local restaurants and redistributes them to centers who can reach the hungry.
Years after its inception, Hands for Hunger can measure their success in pounds--with their refrigerated trucks, they've provided 300,000 pounds of food to their community, and on average, every week they rescue and redistribute up to another 2,000--that's enough food for 2,000 people.
"We're proud to have been able to provide 300,000 meals to Bahamians," says Darville.  "It's even more amazing when you think about how that's all food that could have been thrown away."
Indeed, by partnering with hotel restaurants -- like those found in Atlantis, the Sheraton at Cable Beach and the Wyndham Nassau Resort -- and local restaurants such as Starbucks, Subway and Sbarro's, they can provide discarded food to eighteen local doner centers, including the Salvation Army, Urban Renewal Kemp Road and Great Commission Ministries International.
It's a mission that for Darville, who just began working for the organization in March, is truly inspired by.
"One of the first things I did when I came on board was ride on the trucks and see what happens every day when food is picked up and delivered," she says.  "It was so exciting to see -- I remember at Great Commission Ministries, people were actually running to the trucks and they were so excited to see us and they wanted to help us offload the food and they were saying thank you."
"It just hit home for me that even though The Bahamas is a wealthy country, there are still so many people in need and they're just so grateful someone is stepping up to help."
Though the focus for Hands for Hunger began on food rescue, they're now also turning their attention to education and research, pushing for a food security assesment in the nation.
A little research has been completed in that area, and they've been looking at a variety of factors that influence food security, including food importations and farming, so as to eradicate hunger at its root.
At the same time, they're going into schools and local communities to educate people about the realities of hunger in the community.  On October 15th, designated World Food Day, they'll partner with the Ministry of Agriculture for a day of awareness, educating the public about food insecurity.
"That's something we're really trying to educate the public about--why do we have the issue of hunger in The Bahamas in the first place and what can we do about that?" Darville says.
"There's currently no research and there's no expert you can go to, so what we're trying to do is be one of the forces pushing for change so that we do have that assessment in the country, we can see what the issues are and how we can change them."
Yet they don't plan to drop their food rescue program anytime soon--in fact, they're pushing for more corporate involvement for the community.
With their new volunteer resources and corporate partnerships coordinator joining the team, they hope to attract local businesses who want to make a difference much like Starbucks did earlier this year during their international initiative, Global Month of Volunteerism Campaign, collecting donations from patrons for a local organization.
"We were told by Starbucks that the reason they wanted to partner with us is because they know we partner with 18 recipient agencies we donate the food to--so really by partnering with us, they were able to partner with 18 organizations all at once," says Darville.
"We know that there are many companies that want to do something with their employees," she continues. "They're into corporate social responsibility but they don't have the time to coordinate things -- companies are more likely to do it if you're organized to coordinate it, so we're excited about that opportunity."
They also hold fundraisers and reach out to the community for assistance through their annual events Paradise Plates and their bread and soup booth at Jollification every year.
Yet, Darville says, no matter their expansion or direction, the organization is truly driven by their many tireless volunteers--over 400--who give their time loading trucks, taking pictures, and putting any of their skills to use for the organization that makes such a difference in the lives of many Bahamians.
"I just love seeing all sectors of the community come together," says Darville.  "One of the things I love is that we're constantly being approached by people who want to volunteer.  It's great to see -- it's so heartwarming to see people who want to make a change."
For more about Hands for Hunger, visit their website at www.handsforhunger.org.
Do you know someone who positively impacts your community? Contact us to share their story!

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News Article

March 06, 2014
Baha Mar 80 percent complete

Just nine months away from its planned December 8 opening, the Baha Mar resort is on target with "75 percent to 80 percent" of the construction work complete and a ramp up of marketing planned for the third quarter of this year.
The government has hinged part of its hopes for an economic recovery, and a dip in unemployment, on the resort's opening.
Robert Sands, the resort's senior vice president of administration and external affairs, said while Baha Mar is not the only economic driver in town, he is sure the property will be able to live up to these expectations by pulling in arrivals and putting thousands of Bahamians to work.
"There is an expectation for Baha Mar in this particular area," he told Guardian Business. "We are satisfied that we are going to do our part.
"We're not the only economic driver in the country, but we are satisfied that the jobs that we are going to create will make a significant dent in the unemployment in this country, and we will also be a major stimulus to economic growth in the country going forward."
Sands said the property has more than 10,000 applications for operational jobs. Baha Mar's recruitment team has started reviewing these applications to forward to the property's brands for consideration.
To date, the property has created more than 2,800 job opportunities for Bahamians and put out more than $615 million worth of contracts out to bid for Bahamian contractors.
There are more than 350 Bahamians currently working on the construction site, including construction workers. The resort's core team consists of 150 Bahamians.
There are nearly 3,000 foreign workers on the site and the bulk of this figure is made up of Chinese laborers.
"We have more than lived up to our commitment outlined in our heads of agreement with the government of The Bahamas," Sands said.
The Leadership Development Institute, one of the resort's recruitment programs, has had more than 3,500 participants and received more than 2,900 applications to date.
The resort plans to hire 4,000 hotel workers this year. Sands said he is confident that the property will be able to fill this void with Bahamian talent.
"The challenge will always remain in the middle to upper management categories, but we are satisfied that we will have the training in place that will be able to match the skill sets of the individuals we retain to the goals, the policies and also to the expectations that we have in the jobs that we will be matching them with."
Once open, Baha Mar will have to contend with competition from the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Principals from the Albany development last month signed an amended heads of agreement with the government for a $140 million expansion, which is expected to transform the property into the Monaco of the Caribbean.
Sands said Baha Mar will be able to coexist with these properties and will offer something unique to visitors, particularly its casino.
He added that the resort's gaming partner, Global Gaming Access Management, is "world class" and responsible for some of the world's most successful casinos.
"We are satisfied that we are an adult destination and that we are in fact a gaming resort," Sands said, when asked about fears of competition. "Our niche is pretty much focused, we welcome Albany in their effort to help to raise the profile of tourism in The Bahamas, but we are very satisfied that the direction that we are going [in], we will be very successful in those market niches.
"In addition to gaming, we are going to have some emphasis on meetings and conventions and our luxury market as well. So we are very satisfied that Baha Mar will be able to generate the numbers of business, bodies that will be required to make us a very successful gaming resort on day one."
A key focus of the property is incorporating Bahamian culture and art into its concept.
"The whole ethos about Baha Mar is about things Bahamian," said Sands. "Our visionary leader says it all the time, we're not called the golden horse rising from the sea. We're called Baha Mar, which means beautiful blue waters. So even from our name, everything that we do characterizes authenticity and things Bahamian."
The resort has hired Bahamian artist John Cox as its creative arts director and aims to put local art at the forefront of its design. Baha Mar's local art alliances include The D'Aguilar Art Foundation, The Dawn Davies Collection and the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
The resort's amenities will include a 100,000-square-foot casino, an 18-hole, 72-par Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, the ESPA at Baha Mar spa and more than a dozen pools.
Other attractions will include 50,000 square feet of high-end retail and shopping, and over 30 restaurants, bars and lounges.
The resort will also include 200,000 square feet of combined state-of-the-art convention facilities, including a 2,000-seat performing arts center and an art gallery with the largest curated collection of Bahamian art; a beachfront sanctuary with native Bahamian flora and fauna, and a private island.
Baha Mar officials are expected to take the media on a tour of its golf course today, which is set for completion by the second quarter of this year.

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News Article

September 01, 2011
Tourism goes beyond the hotel

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in The Bahamas are being encouraged to explore opportunities in the tourism industry, with CARICOM officials arguing it offers personal and national benefits.
"The SMEs within tourism really make the product," said Allyson Francis, trade in services specialist with CARICOM.  "When we highlight the tourism sector, we're not only talking about persons related to tourism but all tour operators and tour guides, restaurants, people with dive fishing. . . it's not all about the sun, sea and sand and if you don't have these activities, persons may not even be attracted to the destination.
"These persons are already critical in the whole development of the tourism product."
It's a message she hopes to drive home with industry insiders yesterday at the first Regional Seminar on Tourism - SMEs and Tourism Development in the Caribbean Region.  Francis said the mindset of tourism centering around only hotels should be changed and that the tourism product will only become more competitive with more projects outside of the hotel doors.
The argument has been made several times in the nation, but analysts insist it still remains relevant.  Still, Francis notes challenges that many businesses face with trying to fill the void in terms of offerings.
"From a regional stand point, the issue there is financing available that they are not fully aware of," she added.  "Even if they are aware of financing, the mechanisms or the procedures they have to go through to access the financing are difficult.
"It's not a Bahamian issue, it's a regional issue in terms of accessing funding that is available."
She encouraged businesses to make better use of support organizations like the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, that have access to information.  She said they also play a critical role in growing SME involvement in the tourism industry.

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News Article

August 24, 2011
Money out to sea

Cruises ships rerouted from The Bahamas would have brought with them close to $2 million in total spend, Guardian Business can confirm, with tourism officials not expecting a return in that business until the weekend.
According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Tourism, the initial loss projection as a result of Hurricane Irene is around $1.84 million.
"At this time, it is definitely a loss for us," said Carla Stuart, the ministry's director of cruise development, "because the weather is aiming directly at us and it's such a short notice, but generally that's what we're seeing.  This would have been a very good week for us."
While ships like Carnival Fascination, Fantasy and Sensation, Royal Caribbean's Majesty and Monarch of the Seas and Norwegian Sky were in port yesterday, their departures last night will leave the docks empty until the hurricane has passed.
It's a similar case in Grand Bahama, where the Norwegian Sky did not call Freeport yesterday, but is expected to on Thursday.  While Carnival has cancelled regular arrivals in Freeport Thursday, Carnival Pride will make an unscheduled call into Freeport today, say officials.
The situation comes as the destructive hurricane nears The Bahamas today, with wind conditions not expected to be conducive to cruising around that time.
Cruise ships, often considered an essential artery for revenue, feed the majority of commerce for Bay Street venders. Taxi drivers, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues are all expected to feel the pinch.
Downtown businesses normally benefit from that stream of incoming tourists, specifically tour and excursion operators, which service about 36 percent of the cruise passengers on a given day.
The situation, said Stuart, is literally costing The Bahamas' tourism industry.
"The potential loss of revenue from the  ships at the Port of Nassau might be as much as $1.5 million dollars, spend and head tax," she confirmed.  "The loss of 12,827 passengers in Nassau, would have resulted in approximately $425,718 in head tax and $1.4 million in spend.
"Freeport's losses are calculated [from] 6,220 passengers, with a total of  $111,960 in head tax and  $263,354.80 in spend for a total estimated loss of  $375,314.80."
One port's misfortunate is another's gain, however, as other destinations are likely to gain from the situation.
Still, there may be a rainbow at the end of this hurricane for locals, given cruise ship passengers, on the whole, still prefer voyaging to Bahamian shores.   According to the Cruise Lines International Association's (CLIA) 2010 market overview of the industry, The Bahamas was recognized as a top choice for travelers this year .
In the report, the CLIA projected tha,t based on the volume of sales from last year, The Bahamas and the Caribbean are the top cruise destinations, ahead of regions such as the Mediterranean and Europe. It also mentioned that so far in 2010 the country accounts for almost half of the occupancy rate of fleets associated with CLIA.
Tourism officials earlier projected $235.5 million was pumped directly into the local economy in 2010 from cruise visitor spending.

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