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After my organization hosted the first Small Business Summit in 2009, it was evident that The Bahamas needed a national strategic plan for the development of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). However, our country for 38 years, has had a flaw for not developing a practical strategic national plan for anything (crime, economic development, immigration, etc.).
Industry leaders from the professional and medical services; manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, wholesale merchandising and retail; construction, tourism, hospitality, commercial banks and government indicated during the 2009 Small Business Summit that an Act to developed the SME sector was far overdue.
As a result, a report was developed to identify how this SME could be formulated and implemented in an effective and efficient manner. This report, Act As One: The Importance of Stakeholders' Collaborative Efforts When Developing the Small Business Act of The Bahamas, can be viewed at http://www.markturnquestconsulting.com/Entrepreneurship.html. After consulting with the government, I applaud the Ministry of Finance team for creating the political will to develop the Bahamas SME Development Act and to create a new strategic framework to enhance the productivity level of the sector.
However, there were too many questionable decisions in 2010 on how to perform infrastructural development (mainly the road improvement works) and what formula of tax increases to apply on import duties. I hope that these two decisions will not reduce the effectiveness of the SME Development Act in the future. In 2010, the main focus to stimulate the SME sector should have been to provide incentives and concessions to mitigate the impact of the recession. There was a small window of opportunity to 'stop the bleeding' and it was not taken advantage of; hence, I witnessed hundreds of SME failures and the death of many entrepreneurial dreams. Governments must realize that sometimes negative effects of policy decisions without proper consultations are sometimes irreversible.
My main concern with the formulation process so far is that there has been limited participation by the Act's main stakeholders - SMEs. If this had occurred, then the $7,500 Jump Start Program (grant funding) would not have been given a green light. The grant is not enough and other sources of funding are required by local and international financial institutions to be pooled together to benefit new and existing SMEs.
Other concerns are as follows:
o There should be town meetings with the wider SME community in order to gather information about the major problems and opportunities facing the sector;
o In addition, there needs to be more industry-specific (construction, agriculture, merchandising, hospitality, manufacturing, technical services, tourism, hospitality, fashion design, etc.) discussions, so that local and international issues that affect individual industries could be addressed in the Act.
The formulation process of the SME Development Act needs to be evaluated and corrective measures should take place. I am aware that there were consultations with the Inter-American Development Bank, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation and a few others, but this is not an effective way to develop such an important Act. There needs to be 'inter-stakeholder synergy'; this means that more trade organizations, banks, industry leaders and especially SME owners should be involved in the formulation process before the Act is debated in Parliament.
This inter-stakeholder synergy between the government, NGOs, trade associations, financial institutions, industry leaders and SME owners would align resources and capabilities to craft a SME Act that is meaningful to the sector. Although this Act should not precede a strategic national plan for SME development, it is a good start because our SME sector is lagging behind in competitiveness, globally.
The main policies that must be adapted by key stakeholders when diligently transforming the Act from formulation to implementation are as follows:
I. Ensure that possible amalgamation of Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation (BAIC), Bahamas Development Bank and Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund focuses on leveraging the strengths and correcting the weaknesses of the organizations;
II. The new SME development framework that is being developed must be structured to eliminate financial and non-financial decision making based on political influences. This is the main reason why the Bahamas Development Bank is near bankruptcy;
III. Focus on Family Island development but keep the natural heritage and cultural resources of each island;
IV. Reduce the barriers that make it almost impossible for SMEs to access international funding;
V. Promote and encourage e-commerce activities and remove policies that make opening on-line merchant accounts very difficult;
VI. Adapt public policy tools to SME needs - especially facilitating SME participation in the public procurement process;
VII. Consider creating a Ministry or Department of Commerce to protect the SME sector from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and to develop strategies to improve on its five percent contribution to gross domestic product.
I. Partner with government and international leading institutions to develop comprehensive SME funding scheme (SFS) so that more financial support can be extended to SMEs;
II. The $7,500 grant that is currently being offered to a few SMEs by the government could be used as a down payment so that local and international banks, and private investors could give more meaningful funding in order to prevent business failure due to undercapitalization;
III. Focus on packaging loans extended to SMEs that have built-in accounting management, human resources and marketing support programs at an affordable cost for at least a year.
The Bahamas Chamber Of Commerce and Employers Confederation
I. Focus on providing new SMEs with more market information about various industries. The organization should partner with the College of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank to perform more market research on the economy of The Bahamas;
II. Become more visible in the SME market (over-the-hill) and remove the perception that the organization only focuses on big businesses;
III. Encourage professional and trade associations and SMEs to become more knowledgeable about the pros and cons of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
I. SMEs must be committed to acting in a socially responsible manner (paying business licenses, NIB, correct custom duties, etc.);
II. SMEs must become knowledgeable about all aspects of their business model (operations, marketing, accounting/finance, human resources, etc.);
III. All SMEs must have sound marketing, management, human resource and accounting systems. SMEs must invest in the Quickbooks Accounting Software; it is an invaluable tool for businesses.
The Bahamian consumer
At the heart of the new Act, there should be the conviction that achieving the best possible framework conditions for SMEs depends first and foremost on society's recognition of entrepreneurs.
Bahamian consumers must support the implementation of the new Act and SME framework to buy authentic Bahamian made products and discourage criminal activities that would negatively affect local SMEs. The Bahamian consumers should understand that vibrant SMEs will make The Bahamas more robust to stand against the uncertainty of business cycles (especially recessions and depressions).
Finally, framers of the initial draft of the Act must consider the following important matters:
I. Ensure that presidents of trade and professionals associations clearly identify problems that their members are experiencing from local regulations and international competitors;
II. Build in major incentives in the Act for entrepreneurial ventures that create innovative products, delivery systems, operational structures and marketing strategies in filmmaking, fashion design, e-commerce, information technology, agriculture, manufacturing, education, software development, art and handicraft;
III. Create added concessions to protect 'socially responsible' SMEs that employ over 25 Bahamians during future recessions;
IV. Provide special assistance to local SMEs that focuses highly on exporting authentic Bahamian products and creative services;
V. Provide regulatory policies to protect the management consultancy sector from unfair and unethical practices that are performed by international service providers.
I hope that the initial draft of SME Development Act is brought to the business community. The government must host a series of town meetings and workshops so that all aspects of this Act could be diligently crafted. My advice to the government is not to dilute the process, but have adequate consultation with SME owners and not to force this Act down the throats of SME owners. The government must understand that this is an important Act and not to delay communicating the contents of it to SMEs throughout The Bahamas.
In addition, members of Parliament must become more involved in the formulation of the Act. They should immediately host meetings and obtain information about the challenges and other issues that SMEs are experiencing in their constituencies. This is important so that they (MPs) can have intellectual debates when discussing this Act in the House of Assembly.
I would like for SMEs to contact me so that we can ensure that this Act is diligently formulated and implemented. To contact me call 326-6748/427-3640 or log on to www.markturnquestconsulting.com.
- Mark A. Turnquest
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - Two men were shot and killed in the same area just hours apart yesterday, according to police. The first victim, a 22-year-old man, identified by family members as Lenardo Pierre, was killed after gunshots rang out in the early morning hours yesterday in an apartment complex in Adventurers Way.
The Freeport News can confirm that three people are assisting police with their investigations into that fatal shooting.
The second man killed, who police have yet to identify, was shot along with another man on Weddell Avenue shortly after 9 p.m., not too far away from the first incident, according to police.
The second victim died at the scene; the other man was shot in the leg and was alive at last report, police said last night. It was unclear up to press time if police believed the shootings were related.
Police Public Affairs and Communications Officer (PACO) Inspector Terecita Pinder told The Freeport News team on the scene of the first killing yesterday that officers received information of the shooting on Adventurers Way sometime around 1:45 a.m.
Several officers were dispatched to the scene and on arrival they met a dark male clad in a teal-colored T-shirt and black pants with multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel responded to the scene, however, Pierre was later pronounced dead.
Residents in the close-knit community gathered outside the police tape which secured the crime scene and some of them could be heard weeping softly.
Police officers were seen canvassing the area and carrying out a preliminary investigation into the island's second fatal shooting in less than 24 hours.
Just hours before police were called to Adventurers
Way, officers responded to another shooting in Eight Mile Rock, where a 15-year-old female was shot in the head at a bar in Kings Subdivision around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 30.
When police officers arrived at the scene they found the victim, identified by family members on the scene as Alexis Smith, in a pool of blood.
EMS personnel were called, however, when they arrived and examined the body there were no visible vital signs and they pronounced the female dead.
Pinder confirmed that a male, who is known to police, was taken into custody Sunday afternoon and is being questioned in connection with the death of the teenager.
She noted that police are appealing to members of the general public who have information on both matters to telephone 350-3107/8, 919/911 or call your nearest police station.
The Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) is set to launch its latest "people power" initiative in the form of the Bahamas Millennials Society, a club of financial services professionals with a goal of ensuring the brightest and the best young employees are retained within the sector.
According to a series of surveys in recent years, "millennials" - those born between 1980 and 1995 - represent a powerful generation of workers who actively influence they way they work. Employers around the world are sitting up and taking notice. They have to: Realistically, the millennial generation will form the majority of the workforce by 2020.
BFSB CEO Aliya Allen said, "Addressing the need for homegrown future industry leaders and capitalizing on the pool of talent already present within the financial services sector, BFSB has determined to look at how we can develop and retain the millennial workers within the sector."
To this end, BFSB has formed a Millennials Planning Committee, with the objective of formally launching the society at a forum within the first half of the year.
Allen added, "In a recent survey, over half of millennium respondents said training and development is the most valuable benefit they see in the next five years of their professional development. And, 98 percent of all respondents said working with coaches and mentors is an important development opportunity. This ties in perfectly with our plans."
A key component of the membership benefits will be regular meetings to promote networking amongst the millennials, and mentor presentations on topics of interest to this generation of workers.
Allen said, "It is an indisputable fact that one has to capture both the hearts and minds of the millennial worker. It cannot be business as usual. We look to our member firms to support this initiative, fully recognizing that this is the generation that will drive the sector forward in the coming years."
The BFSB said the initiative fits with its ongoing drive to develop human capital within the sector.
American Eagle is terminating the lease of nine ATR turboprops flying out of Miami, Guardian Business has learned.
The move, part of the airline's restructuring process, impacts all of the planes that normally service The Bahamas.
While the American Airlines affiliate said destinations should be backfilled with regional jets, "the schedule is still being finalized".
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, said a meeting is scheduled for next week with the troubled airline to discuss "a whole series of matters".
He expressed confidence that airlift into the country can be negotiated and should be unaffected by the restructuring.
"We think The Bahamas will always be an important destination for American, be it Eagle or the parent company," he added. "We have already had long conversations about expanding our relationship, rather than reducing it, so we are not concerned we'll find ourselves at a disadvantage here."
The nine ATRs will begin to be phased out in May of this year.
In a statement from the company, American Eagle acknowledged that "this will again impact employees".
A displacement bid is expected to be released in the coming weeks for employees. The statement went on to mention that restructuring brings about "difficult changes for all of us".
Vanderpool-Wallace felt the current restructuring could end up being an advantage for The Bahamas, as the carrier moves from smaller propeller planes to larger jets for regional travel.
These planes hold more passengers, and when the process is complete, hopefully the country will come out on top.
"In terms of perception of airlift, it might be an unintended positive consequence. I know they are having conversations to increase the size of regional jets," the minister told Guardian Business.
Also being discussed with the airline is "Bahamianizing" the D-60 terminal in Florida. The Ministry of Tourism hopes to partner with officials there to help generate a strong local feel before visitors even get on the plane.
This initiative would involve more Bahamian flavor in the terminal, providing videos, reading material, entertainment and other attractions to get tourists thinking about activities before they arrive.
The minster said that according to research at the Ministry of Tourism, visitors are less likely to spend more than what they planned to once they arrive at hotels.
Planting the tourism seeds early should generate more spending for the country, he explained.
Darrell Richardson, the CEO of Silver Airways, told Guardian Business that the loss of ATRs out of Miami is indeed a blow for American Eagle.
He felt that, depending on what happens in the coming months, it could "open the door" for Silver Airways to do more airlift from Florida to The Bahamas.
"We're talking a lot to the Miami market and to Nassau these days," he said. "If we added airlift, it would be later this year and it's on the table. If they are pulling down it will speed us up."
Silver Airways is currently in the middle of an expansion as its new Saab 340 aircraft arrive in the U.S. The third of six 34-seater planes touched down last week.
The Saab 340s are in the registration and training process. Service to The Bahamas should begin by the middle of March.
The airline recently named one of these new planes "The Spirit of The Bahamas".
"We're sitting here with a new fleet of airplanes," Richardson said, "so if American Eagle scales down, we'll take advantage of it."
The Minister of Tourism and Aviation says local carriers are "biting the hand that feeds them" by complaining about the lack of support from the government, insisting it is doing all it can to promote the industry.
Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace told Guardian Business the only way to develop the Family Islands is for local airlines to focus on internal flights, lower their costs and provide a high-quality service - an endeavor he continues to support.
"They don't understand what we are doing on their behalf," he explained.
"They can yell and scream all they want. We believe strongly in developing our local carriers."
The comments follow an ongoing dispute between Skybahamas and Minister of Tourism.
Randy Butler, the CEO of Skybahamas, has been increasingly critical and vocal concerning what he feels is preferential treatment for foreign carriers now offering direct flights to a variety of destinations in the Family Islands.
Vision Air, for example, is now offering $1 direct flights from several U.S. locations, which have been made possible through partnerships with the government and private stakeholders on the islands.
Gulfstream International, which is also in the process of ramping up its flights ahead of the winter season, has also benefited from government collaboration.
Vanderpool-Wallace said one of the major stumbling blocks preventing local carriers from effectively providing direct service from the U.S. is the Global Distribution System (GDS).
Most local carriers, he said, are not on this database to facilitate easy travel between airports and locations.
Meanwhile, the government has supported various initiatives to promote domestic travel to the islands for local carriers, he pointed out, including the buy-one-get-one-free offers.
On the whole, Butler said the companion deal is not effective when promoting their business.
High hotel costs and food prevent many Bahamians from travelling to the family islands, making the promotion less appealing.
"There is a nearsightedness and a lack of strategic planning for the whole industry," he felt.
In regards to the GDS, "investment in that makes no sense", he added. With the proliferation of the internet, he said there was no excuse in terms of the visibility of the airline and the services it offers.
"Fact number two," he said, "is if you're promoting the foreign airlines to go directly to the Family Islands, there is no room for domestic carriers. Why would we invest in it? It would only make sense if they all came to Nassau and then we distributed them to the Family Islands."
With this in mind, Butler argued that focusing on domestic service to the Family Islands was not a practical or lucrative piece of the aviation pie.
Another bone of contention is the licensing of foreign carriers.
Last week, Guardian Business revealed two foreign carriers lacked the proper certification to advertise their fares ahead of the winter season - a fact that was confirmed by the Department of Aviation.
Ormond Russell, the operations officer, said airlines should have this licensing before advertising fares.
Responding to the apparently discrepancy, Vanderpool-Wallace said it's "normal" for the carriers to advertise ahead of certification and an "asterisk was missed somewhere".
Since the report, the minister said one airline had received its certification and the other had signed a promotional agreement.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez yesterday tabled proposed amendments to the Juries Act, which aim to "improve the efficiency of criminal trials".
The changes would "provide effective mechanisms which would allow the courts to dispose of matters in a radically swifter and more organized manner".
The bill would expand the jury pool to include family island residents who would be provided with accommodations and a stipend during their service.
The bill would place an age limit of 70 on people eligible to sit on a jury.
It would also place additional duties on the parliamentary commissioner in the preparation of jury lists to "ensure a smooth and efficient process".
Additionally, the bill would shorten the maximum period of jury service from three months to two months.
However, if a juror is serving on a case that has not been completed at the end of two months, he or she would continue to serve until the case is completed.
The bill would also increase the categories that would disqualify a person from serving on a jury to include additional disabilities such as being blind or deaf.
Last week, during a nationally-televised press conference, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the amendments are part of the government's attempt to reduce the criminal court backlog and speed up the judicial process.
"The Juries Act is being shaped and fashioned now for first reading in Parliament, where we are amending the Juries Act again to make the system of justice able to conform more to the requirements and the challenges that we now face," Christie said.
In January, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the court calendar was already in 2016 and there were more than 1,000 backlogged cases, including serious offenses committed last year.
"These statistics show that notwithstanding the efforts of various administrations over decades, the system is fundamentally broken," Maynard-Gibson said.
"Bold steps must be taken to restore confidence in the system. All hands must be on deck. There are no magic wands."
As part of its reform of the judicial system, the government said it plans to have 10 criminal courts operating simultaneously this year.
With a focus of promoting Caribbean athletics globally, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) is spearheading a 'Day in the Life' Series, featuring some of the best athletes in the region. A number of those athletes will be here in The Bahamas this weekend for the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) World Relay Championships. Local Organizing Committee (LOC) members are anticipating a fantastic show.
Members of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of The Bahamas' first truly global sporting event are beaming with pride as the event draws closer and closer.
Two and a half years of planning and preparation is about to come to fruition as the IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014 prepares to take off this Saturday and conclude this Saturday at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. Nearly 800 athletes from 42 nations are set to compete, and the 15,000-seat stadium is expected to be filled to capacity. The Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) has ratified a 26-member team for the championships.
All of the amenities are in place, and some of the world's best athletes are already here. The United States has been filing in all week, and countries such as Kenya, Jamaica and Great Britain will arrive today. This is the first ever International Association of Athletics Federation's (IAAF) World Relay Championships, and it promises to be truly exciting.
"This is a huge undertaking for us. It is the biggest event that we have ever hosted, and we are all delighted to have an opportunity to show the world that we can organize an event of this magnitude," said LOC Chairman Keith Parker. "We are determined to do everything that we can to make the athletes feel welcomed, and for them to compete at the highest level, and secondly, we want to do everything that we can to accommodate the press properly. Too often, the press is left out, and we want to change that and make you guys as comfortable as you need to be so that you can do work effectively. Those are two key areas, and if we do those things well, I thank that can set the stage for more events of this nature to come to The Bahamas and to the Caribbean."
Parker said that it's amazing that a small country such as The Bahamas is being granted the opportunity to host such a grand event, but they in the LOC truly embrace the chance to prove to the world that The Bahamas is indeed capable of hosting such a world-class event.
"The confidence shown in us is encouraging by the IAAF, and it is up to us to prove to them that we are capable hosts. The biggest challenge for us was the track itself, being uprooted and replaced," said Parker. "Once that was completed, everything else just fell into place."
Parker's deputy, BAAA President Mike Sands said that he is honored to be serving as the president of the host federation at a time when a historic undertaking, such as the world relays, unfolds.
"To have an event like this at home is truly fantastic," said Sands. "Our athletes always take pride in competing at home. When you look at our fans, they have always seen our athletes compete on the world stage on television, but they hardly get to see them compete at home. From that perspective, I am extremely excited.
"A number of our top athletes are committed to taking part in this event, so we certainly expect the performances to be up to par, particularly with our athletes competing on home soil. The Bahamian fans can be very demanding, and they expect a lot, but I believe that our athletes will live up to those expectations."
With the relays being held before the national championships, Sands said that they had to decide on a system of selecting the top times from the season in finalizing Team Bahamas for these championships.
"What we did was sent out the criteria for team selection, and then we sat back and monitored the results from the various meets this season," said Sands. "I think that we have a well-balanced team with the opportunity for athletes to double up because our pool is not as deep as some of the bigger countries. We're looking forward to some really great performances. This event bodes well for the future of track and field right here in The Bahamas, because when you look at the junior segment of the world relays, they will get an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best athletes in the world, and that could do wonders for their careers."
There were numerous concerns regarding the bloated budget for these inaugural championships, and The Bahamas' ability to put it all together, but Sands said that he would never sell the country short in terms of hosting such a grand event.
"With an event of this magnitude, once you would have the support of the IAAF and our various partners and sponsors, the logistics and everything else would fall into place," he said. "As you can see, everything has come together on one accord for these world relays. I have no doubt that we will be able to stage a very successful event."
When John Bull Group of Companies was forced to pull out as a sponsor for the event, there was some initial concern seeing that their sponsorship was at the national partner level, but since then BTC has stepped up to the plate.
"What happened is that John Bull is a major supplier of many products, and one of the products that John Bull carries competes with a product of one of the partners of the IAAF. As a result of that, they had to withdraw their services," said Sands. "It was unfortunate, but we have to respect the fact that the IAAF has legacy partners. Thankfully, it didn't hinder the progress of the event. The government of The Bahamas is the primary sponsor of this event. They have been committed to the world relays from day one, and we're pleased to have their support."
Grafton Ifill Jr., who acts as a liaison between the government and the LOC, said that sports tourism boost that can be felt from the world relays is tremendous, and the economic impact could be huge.
"The government of The Bahamas gladly throws its resources behind these world relays," said Ifill Jr. "The financial resources are there, the human resources have been designated to the program, and we certainly look forward to hosting what we regard as an excellent event.
"When the idea was first thrown about, The Bahamas, as a country, immediately jumped on it because this is a touristic destination and we saw the opportunity to attract tourists to the country. We are also known for our prowess in track and field, and we saw this as an excellent event in bringing together some of the best athletes in the world. For us, it was an easy decision to make," he added.
In total, when taking into consideration athletes, coaches, trainers, team officials, technical officials, IAAF delegates, and family and friends of the athletes, more than 1,000 visitors are expected to grace these shores this week.
"We are in the process of liaising with experts who have developed a product for us, that will enable us to measure both before and after the event the impact that it would have had," said Ifill Jr. "With the budget, we're taking a very close look at that, because we want to ensure that the government gets its return on investment. It's a significant sum, but it is one that the government feels is well spent. We have preliminary indications that the return on investment will be reasonable. Once the data is put into the system and we do the post evaluation, we should be able to have some solid numbers going forward."
It is estimated that the world relays ran a total cost of $10-12 million. Whereas that might be a hefty price, hardly anyone could argue with the far-reaching impact that the event will have on the country. The Bahamas and its new stadium will be on center stage, as the world relays will be seen by millions around the world.
It is certainly a time to feel pride as a Bahamian.
With a new name under its belt and diversified areas of focus including spa services and gaming, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is heading into 2012 with one simple objective, to take its reputation as one of the Caribbean's most family-friendly beach resorts to the next level, emerging as a multi-faceted destination geared to a diverse audience of world travelers and locals.
"As part of Baha Mar - one of the world's most exciting new tourism developments - the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's mission is to elevate our reputation as a leading family-friendly property, but also to diversify our approach and concentrate on promoting all that we have to offer," said Manny Corral, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "We believe our resort is poised for success in 2012 and beyond."
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino's Love Your Family Program provides families the opportunity to connect while on vacation. The resort's family activities include drive-in movies throughout the week, as well as fireside storytelling and Bahamian Idol, a talent competition that brings the whole family together to cheer each other on. In 2012, the resort will continue evolving its offerings for families, including the addition of new activities for children of all ages, and themed holiday family programs.
Food and wine
The resort houses six restaurants and lounges, serving a variety of island specialties and international cuisine. The resort's award-winning food and beverage team creates an exceptional culinary experience, from casual dining at the Dolphin Grill to authentic Italian delicacies at Amici, A Trattoria, perfect for any occasion. In 2012, the resort will roll out a redesigned, interactive cooking program for guests, along with other new food and wine-focused activities.
The Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino has recently changed its name to recognize the world-class Crystal Palace Casino, easily accessible to guests of the resort. The casino houses over 400 slot machines and 25 table games including Blackjack, Craps, Poker and more.
Easily accessible to travelers throughout the United States and Canada, the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort & Casino is located 15 minutes from Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is serviced by a number of domestic and international carriers. The resort is set on a 1,000-foot stretch of Nassau's spectacular white-sand beaches, with 694 oceanview guest rooms and suites. The property boasts an incredible waterscape, including three freshwater pools, flowing waterfalls, a swim-up bar, and oversized whirlpools nestled among tropical landscaping.
I wish to thank Hubert A. Ingraham, prime minister of The Bahamas, for acknowledging and being attentive to the concerns of pilots at Lynden Pindling International Airport. Pilots are faced with many challenges daily. As the founder of the Bahamian Pilots Alliance, my deep passion and dedication is focused on executing positive changes in my workplace (the airport and other airports within this chain of Bahama islands).
I also wish to express appreciation for the support of the Minister of Aviation Senator Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace for his help in changing the maximum hours my colleagues and I are allowed to be on duty and the sectors that can be flown. We now work up to 10 flights or a maximum of 10 hours (which ever comes first).
About a year ago, the member of Parliament for Fox Hill, Fred Mitchell, heard our plea and reached out by attending our press conference. His words were very encouraging and we are grateful for his support.
As my colleagues and I continue to provide superior service to our commuters who fly back and forth throughout The Bahamas on a daily basis, we are encouraged by the prayers and kind words of many. We rely on the prayers of many, especially our family and close friends, as we take on the daring task of embracing the skies. Thank you all for your commitments to keeping us loved, supported and "prayed-up".
We embark upon this new year, and we are all blessed to have jobs. Although we have courage to skillfully carry out our duties (sometimes in stressful environments), our successes (as pilots) would be incomplete without the professional support of our cabin attendants, air-traffic controllers, mechanics, customs and immigration officers and all our other aviation-based teammates. Daily we all face various challenges. Thank you for your support.
It is time to take leadership of our Civil Aviation Department. Based on comments and concerns, the department needs help. We welcome the idea of bringing new inspectors on board.
The issue of hiring immigrants before considering an eligible Bahamian is still a concerning factor. There is no reason why, in 2012, any airline in The Bahamas has to bring in and train any foreigners. There are many capable and qualified Bahamians who can fill these positions in aviation. The concerns have been voiced and your expressions of concern are not going ignored.
Are pilots still being coerced to fly unsafely? Yes, it is still happening - even today. Do labor issues still exist? Oh, yes! Are tired pilots being asked to fly, tampering with logs, and are the regulations and the laws that govern us still blatantly being pushed aside? There are laws and regulations that govern this country. There are many concerns, but as united and committed professionals we will find a resolve.
I humbly ask every Bahamian pilot in The Bahamas to remember your professional decorum. The time is here for us to change this industry and move ourselves upward to the next level. Let us understand that there are investors in our country, and it is time that we seriously consider an urgent need to invest in ourselves.
We are 50 miles southeast of the world's largest economy. We have a peaceful and stable democracy. We have a tremendously beautiful climate - paradise! Our friendly people and free lifestyle is inviting. Best of all, as I look around at my colleagues, I see highly trained professionals. We take control of our craft and our major concern is always the safety of our passengers and as well as an appreciation for our own lives. We soar from destination to destination with a mantra of "safety first"!
I pray that the $50 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is spent on our local airline companies and not the non-locally owned companies that we compete with daily.
Finally, I wish to encourage our visitors to consider booking tickets on Flamingo Air, Lee Air, First-Class Charters, Dove Wings Charters, Regional Air, Abaco Air, Atlantic Blue Charters, Southern Air, Bahamasair and many others, and explore all that The Bahamas has to offer in its uniquely beautiful outer islands. Consider all local aviators as you make plans to explore our islands.
We can and we will do it - take responsibility and leadership in our desired professions. Many of us, since childhood, have dreamed of becoming pilots and we've accomplished our goal. Now it is time to dream further. I ask all Bahamian pilots who have not registered as yet for the Bahamian Pilot Alliance to join us. Connect with us on Facebook or please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We need your support as the elections draw near. Just as the Free National Movement, the Democratic National Alliance and the Progressive Liberal Party are relying on your votes, the Bahamian Pilots Alliance is important and needs your support. We will continue on our mission to ensure that your concerns are heard and regulations are put in place that will benefit all. Continue to do your best. Put safety first! May God continue to grant us His favor and blessings.
- Captain Philip L. Armbrister
Tourism from Latin America to the Caribbean is growing eight percent each year, and carriers from that region invested $14 billion in new planes last year alone.
These impressive statistics were revealed during an address at Routes Americas 2012 by the executive director of the Latin American & Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA).
Alex de Gunten sat down with Guardian Business to discuss the future of arguably the most important region for tourism growth in The Bahamas.
The executive director said Routes Americas is an essential moment for the county to build on the momentum created by Copa Airlines.
Arrivals in Nassau through Copa surged 38 percent in 2011, according the Ministry of Tourism.
"It's amazing you have Copa here because Copa covers all of those countries in South America. It will allow you to see all of the traffic and see how the product is welcomed in those countries," he explained. "It's a great door opener. It allows the travel agencies to test the waters.
"I think a lot of people here are looking forward to meeting with Latin American carriers."
These sentiments are consistent with comments made by Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, who told Guardian Business on Tuesday he could envision two daily flights from Panama to fill the demand.
"So many countries in South America can connect through there. So I believe we are still only scratching the surface, in terms of cultivating centers such as Brazil or Colombia. We want to see them become non-stop service, or perhaps through Panama," he said.
Gunten was reluctant to speculate which markets in Latin America will emerge as major tourism contributors first. But he did note that airlines such as Copa and TAM Airlines still have a relatively small market share compared to U.S. carriers. He anticipated, based on demand and investment, a dramatic rebalancing will occur over the coming years.
The gross domestic product (GDP) in Latin America and foreign trade continues to rise, he added. Inflation has also gone down dramatically, he noted, and all of that has helped reduce poverty.
"This has increased the size of the middle class and people who can travel to the region," he told Guardian Business.
In fact, according to ALTA, in 2011 up to 10 million Brazilians got in a plane for the first time. A staggering 30 million Brazilians joined the middle class over the last seven years.
With the exception of China, Gunten said this level of growth is unrivaled in the world.
While $14 million was spent on planes in the region last year, $35 billion worth was purchased between 2006 and 2010, the ALTA chief explained.
"The fleet in Latin America is younger than the North American or European fleet," he said. "There has been great investment into the region."
But has the growth been too fast?
Gunten expressed concern as to whether the authorities and regulators will keep up with the rapid development of the airline industry.
In Europe, he noted that political integration happened first, which was followed by airline integration and the removal of barriers to make flights between countries more seamless.
He said Latin America still remains "fragmented".
Differing regulations, licensing and certifications between Latin American nations still make flying more costly and inefficient than it needs to be, he argued.
"So airlines are poised to keep growing," Gunten said.
"Our big question is whether the region will keep up. Will all of the other things that are needed be there in a few years? Hopefully we can work together to make sure that happens."