June 14, 2019
The launch of the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) of The Bahamas Ltd. -- whose purpose is to create linkages between the country’s growing Tourism market and its domestic economy – is expected to allow more, ordinary Bahamians to benefit from larger, economic roles in the Tourism sector.
Specifically, the TDC has been established to regulate and foster the growing domestic tourism industry and empower Bahamians as stake-holders/entrepreneurs “in this our most important economic sector.”
Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, who said he received approval to launch the TDC nine months ago, added that the move “is a significant paradigm shift from the past, where Bahamians typically played a more subordinate economic role.”
“I am excited about the purpose and goals of the TDC. So much of the dollar spent by our foreign visitors in The Bahamas ends up going right back out of the country and we need an arm of the government that is focused exclusively on nurturing and growing the linkages between the lucrative and all important Tourism sector and ordinary Bahamians,” Minister D’Aguilar said in his 2019-2020 Budget Contribution in the House of Assembly, June 6, 2019.
“In the two short years that I have been in this position as Minister of Tourism, I have been overwhelmed by the multitude of opportunities in the Tourism sector that are going untapped by Bahamians. I challenge my fellow Bahamians, especially those that have an interest in, or an affinity for, business, to seriously look at the Tourism sector. Yes, more and more Bahamians are getting involved in the Tourism sector by renting their homes, but there are so many more opportunities that exist in providing experiences that are not being currently exploited.
“If you are interested in finding out about, or taking advantage of these opportunities, I invite you, my fellow Bahamians, to come into the Tourism Development Corporation to flesh out your idea, gain access to those critical decision-makers that will help grow your business and give you the push to launch your new business. I must emphasize that we are not a funding agency but we will help you prepare your proposal to present to the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) touted by the Minister of Finance as the new agency charged with funding start-ups.”
Minister D’Aguilar said TDC has entered into a strategic partnership with the University of The Bahamas in what is being touted as a timely, signature initiative -- Community Based Tourism (CBT). He said Bahamians would recognize the People-to-People Programme as the forerunner to CBT, a dynamic programme that is to be managed and nurtured by TDC while drawing on best practices from elsewhere, like the Far East.
“Economically, money is coming into The Bahamas, instead of the bank accounts of second-home owners overseas. This iteration of Bahamian home-hospitality, especially in the Carmichael area, is CBT at its best. Guests are enjoying a cultural exchange in Nassau before going onto the Family Islands; local hosts are preparing meals for guests, providing roundtrip transfers to the airport, provisioning starter groceries for the rental and guests are reciprocating with gifts sent from afar and treating their hosts to final night dinners at their expense.
“People are being exposed to tourism in a way that was almost impossible before and we are experiencing the distribution of income and the improved quality of life that was always desired.”
Minister D’Aguilar said, corporately, CBT has spurred tremendous interest. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), he said, has “rushed” to offer an electronic payment solution -- the Bank in a Box module offered by Mastercard, designed to make it easier for entrepreneurs -- especially those servicing the cruise passenger -- to be able to conduct business.
A Pilot Programme will be rolled out in August/September, 2019, in Bimini, in anticipation of its transformation into a cruise port by year-end, and the arrival of Virgin Voyages in March 2020.
“Given the banks’ exodus from the Family Islands, this programme is intended to be rolled out in the other islands as well,” Minister D’Aguilar said.
Additionally, shore experiences are being revamped and refreshed with the guidance of industry partners such as Global Ports Holding Ltd., Virgin Voyages, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Airbnb that are seeking more experiential activities for the 2020 visitor. Bahamians will receive macro-level insights into what's trending and the criteria needed to qualify for on-boarding these dynamic Experiences platforms.
Experiences being sought include high-end/luxurious experiences; Family Island Experiences; Boutique Hotel Experiences; Spiritual/Wellness Experiences; Social Impact Experiences (involving charities); Adventurous Experiences; University and Even Tech Start-Up Experiences; Food Experiences; Ancestry Oriented Experiences, and Domestic Market Experiences.
“TDC is facilitating the incorporation of the Bahamas Authentic Shore Experiences Ltd. (BASE). As the name suggests, tours and activities are intended to be unique, sustainable and compelling to enhance the visitor experience and spur purchases. We are building capacity such that the Cruise lines and tour operators will, overtime, develop a degree of comfort working with BASE and Bahamian entrepreneurs are empowered.”
Minister D’Aguilar said TDC is intending to launch the Cruise Committee to monitor the Heads of Agreement commitments and ensure those areas that are reserved for Bahamians -- entertainment, tours and water sports -- are being honoured. It is also intended to serve as an advocate for Bahamian entrepreneurs working in the private island cruise environment. (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)
By Matt Maura