January 26, 2022
After more than 30 years in the hospitality industry with the last six years as a taxi driver, I am convinced that there must be a change in the building of our tourism model in our country. There needs to be more discussion not only with developers but with Bahamian stakeholders in open forums that could result in a Win-Win for all, especially when it comes to large-scale developments.
In my view, when it comes to larger developments there seems to be less ownership opportunities for Bahamians. These agreements focus largely on us becoming employees with a greater dependence on foreign investors. And even worse, we continue to place our tourism product in the hands of a select few which, in my view, weakens our bargaining power. This means that if the foreign entity decides to leave, we suffer because the jobs are directly attached to the development. The latest example of this is the imminent closure of the British Colonial Hilton Hotel where some 100 persons will more than likely lose their jobs as a result of these types of agreements.
Foreign direct investments should create a win-win situation for everyone. However, we have seen in the past that these deals negatively affect small, local businesses because we depend so much on them, they seem to indirectly control our destiny.
I think the time has come for deals struck with foreign investors to go beyond just jobs and extend into long-term ownership opportunities such as shares/profit sharing and true win-win business partnerships. We need to ensure that Bahamians are prepared through genuine training that does not simply focus on executives at the top but also impacts the average Bahamian in the community.
With billions of dollars coming into this country and with many favorable assets, I believe our government should not make deals from a point of desperation but from a position of strength. Foreign investors should be encouraged to form strong partnerships where we all benefit and once again get a win-win result. And that means, beyond jobs with a focus on more Bahamian ownership.
Case in point, the Royal Caribbean Beach Club project which is being proposed on Paradise Island. In my view, the drawbacks seem to outweigh the benefits.
For years, we’ve heard Save the Bays and other prominent environmentalists lobby to preserve the environment in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands in the face of major developments. Now I’ve learned that Protect Our Islands Fund and others have begun advocating for the same due diligence when it comes to the construction of the Royal Caribbean Beach Club on Paradise Island.
This project appears to be long on promises and short on particulars. For instance, developers have not answered how pollution and waste will be properly managed with the increased volume of cruise ship passengers set to visit Paradise Island. I think the new government’s responsibility should be to ensure that our natural environment is managed in such a way to sustain economic growth for the long-term.
This Beach Club project seemed to have been given the go-ahead with little consideration for us taxi drivers or for hair braiders, ferry boat operators and other everyday Bahamians who must operate in the hospitality environment. In my view, there is a very real possibility that this development could deliver a death blow to other tourism hot spots like downtown which is already hurting economically and needs investments not competition.
We must look at the real needs of Bahamians rather than the wants of developers and ask ourselves some relevant questions like, how does this project improve the quality of our lives as Bahamians? How will this move us closer to ownership as Bahamians rather than just jobs? How does it diversify our current offerings? More importantly, why are we still accommodating developments that are at odds with environmental sustainability?
My hope is that more developers of large-scale projects will have to go through a full public review where we, as stakeholders, will be involved in the process that influences the final decision.
I call on the current administration to reconsider the Royal Caribbean Beach Club project and reveal all of the details to the Bahamian people. I think this should not be a done deal when there are so many questions with answers still pending.
At the end of the day, we must always remember that The Bahamas belongs to Bahamians and not to persons who may come in, reap the benefits and then decide to move on.
Mr. Kenyatta Nairn
News date : 01/26/2022 Category : Letters