July 29, 2019
Every year my son takes his family to one of the Family Islands for about ten days. His mother and I tag along.
The children have caught crabs in Andros, watched the majestic Flamingoes in Inagua, trekked to the top of Mount Alvernia in Cat Island, ventured into Preacher's Cave in North Eleuthera, stood on the beach in San Salvador where Columbus landed in 1492, swam with the pigs in Exuma, and toured the Exuma Cays with "Capt. Jerry".
This year we went to San Salvador. Not only being the land where Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, there are miles of beautiful sandy beaches, lakes that serve as the nurseries for all kinds of fish, turtles, and breeding grounds for birds. The island is breath taking and the people are helpful and wonderful. It's a place where you don't lock your doors.
The main employer is Club Med, an all-inclusive hotel. They own and manage all the water sports, the restaurants, the shops. This is for their guests, but outsiders can, at a per head fee, spend the day there with all the facilities at their disposal. It's impressive. They have done what they committed to do and they do it well.
Guests who are registered there are not encouraged to venture outside the property. The Bahamian taxpayer maintains the airport on which their guests land. The Bahamian taxpayer paves the roads on which their guests travel. In turn Club Med hires our people.
That's good. But it is not good enough for the government now to sit on its hands and be content to stop there. What do the people who don't work at Club Med do? Where are their opportunities?
There is a whole market out there that the Government says should be taxed and that's the "home away from home". I, on the other hand, say that they should be given all the rights the "Hotel Encouragement Act" provides.
There is a large group of people who travel with their families and thus cannot afford the rates a hotel charges. My family is a typical example. When we travel there are a minimum of eight people. We rent a house; we could not afford to stay in a hotel.
Locals and foreigners should be encouraged to build small and large houses outside of Club Med to serve this new, large market.
Now what is the advantage? We visited a restaurant on three occasions while we were there. The food was mouth-watering, the service was good, the owners were friendly, and the prices were low. The only problem is that we were the only people there.
With more single family homes there would be a demand for more restaurants, a larger food store, a barber shop, gift shops, etc. In short, there would be more money spent with those outside the walls of the "all inclusive", more money that will stay in the local market and a whole new market of visitors would have been created.
So rather than the Minister suggesting that "home away from home" be taxed, the Ministry of Tourism should be encouraging investment in this market, putting these homes under the "Hotels Encouragement Act" and using its world wide advertising budget to promote and market this enterprise.
The members of Government must understand that the end run is "the good of the people", not themselves.