FREEPORT, Bahamas – Tourism and Aviation Minister, the Honourable Neko C. Grant said Thursday, May 17 that the new Free National Movement government is committed to providing the necessary support needed to restore Grand Bahama to the glory tourism days and improve the tourism product throughout the country.
Mr. Grant, who is also the Member of Parliament for the Lucaya Constituency on Grand Bahama, was on Thursday visiting with the staff at the Grand Bahama Tourist Office to review the operation, find out where they are and determine where they are going.
He had only days prior carried out a similar exercise in New Providence. He assured Bahamians that the Government of The Bahamas is fully committed to its promise as stated in Manifesto 2007 to deliver an improved and sustainable tourism product for the enjoyment and benefit of international and domestic tourists.
Mr. Grant told members of the press that tourism as it relates to Grand Bahama has been hurting for far too long and “that is job number one.”
On Thursday he also toured the site of the proposed new Grand Bahama Tourist Office at the Fidelity Financial Centre just off the Mall.
Addressing the media shortly after 5.00 p.m. in a suite at the Pelican Bay Resort in Lucaya, the new Tourism Minister also emphasized that his Ministry is committed to ensuring that the staff at the tourism office in Grand Bahama has a comfortable work environment that is conducive to productivity.
In furtherance of their objectives to restore Grand Bahama to its glory tourism days, the Tourism Minister on Thursday also met with the executives of the Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board with a view to effect in the shortest possible time a positive turn around of the tourism prospects in Grand Bahama.
He said the meeting with the GBI Promotion Board and other tourism partners included the promotion and advertising specific to Grand Bahama, increased airlifts, sustainable cruise business, the need for new resorts and local tourism awareness campaign.
On the subject of promotion and advertising the Grand Bahama native said that the current promotion and advertising campaign is inadequate to address Grand Bahama Island’s needs.
“While we have excellent hotel rates for example, yet there is little awareness in our key markets of what we have to offer.
“In fact one could say Grand Bahama is practically invisible in the marketplace. We therefore need a bigger bang for our buck in our offshore promotion,” he sated.
With respect to increased airlifts, Mr. Grant said there is an urgent need for that to take place. Likewise he said that it is critical that load factors into Grand Bahama be increased and sustained.
“We need to put bodies into seats and heads into beds. The average load factor for the first four month of this year as provided by the Grand Bahama Airport Company Limited for all airlines inbound reveal a 55 percent load in January, 62% in February, 38% in March and 46% in April,” he informed.
On the subject of the cruise business he said that there is the need for a strategy to develop sustainable cruise business between Florida and Grand Bahama. Mr. Grant pointed out that Grand Bahama’s cruise business suffered much in 2006. He said figures show that in 2006 a total of 174,869 passengers came by cruise vessels compared to 297,652 passengers in 2005.
Mr. Grant was also keen on the need for new resorts for Grand Bahama Island saying that we need more hotel rooms, which in turn could put more people back to work and revitalize the hotel industry.
With respect to the local tourism awareness campaign he said that “on island we believe we must step up our local awareness campaign and invest more in education about the value of tourism to the quality of life of every Bahamian.
He was also mindful of the need to improve the taxi service and implementing a code of conduct, and service standards.
According to the Tourism Minister over the past few years Grand Bahama has had to endure sustained adversity.
“And to the credit of Grand Bahamians, they have been patient under the most trying circumstances, and have remained hopeful.
“The needs of Grand Bahama Island at this time are especially critical because here is a situation whereby we have to not only restore a whole industry, but to also set it on a path that will yield performances well beyond the island’s past achievements, with the corresponding structures and policies necessary to help the island sustain these higher levels.
“This means recouping existing room losses while also attracting the airlift necessary to support established as well as the additional anticipated demand on the island’s planned investments,” he said.
Adding that Grand Bahama has enormous potentials Mr. Grant said his Ministry will accentuate that potential with new branding initiatives that will highlight and celebrate the uniqueness of the whole of Grand Bahama, from East End to West End, and the very special appeal the island brings to this destination.
“It is important that we brand Grand Bahama as a destination that has a market presence and appeal of its own, and that is exactly what we intend to do.
Mr. Grant also used the occasion to talk about improving our tourism product throughout the country.
He said that the long awaited aesthetic and structural improvements to the principal air and sea gateways must be tackled with deliberate urgency.
Mr. Grant noted that the Lynden Pindling International Airport in New Providence must be brought up to acceptable standards.
And to further contribute to the enhancement of visitor experience, he said that his Ministry intends to partner with private sector stake holders to develop new and interesting tours.
He said they will facilitate the training of guides and assist with the promotion and marketing of these tours.
In the Family Islands Mr. Grant said they want to create a more business approach for small hotels; cause for improvements to airport facilities in order to support improved airlifts from international gateways and the restoration of cultural and heritage sites.
The Tourism Minister said that “the condition and quality of our heritage sites and facilities throughout the Islands of The Bahamas require us to devote greater attention to their restoration and maintenance.
“These are the things that help to tell our story. These are the things that make us unique and help to complete the experience of our visitors. Stories and experiences they’ll want to share with others on their return home,” he stated.