Ladies and Gentlemen
Happy 8 million !
I would like to take this moment to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the stakeholders who have played a pivotal role in reaching this historic milestone. Our airline and hotel partners, the promotion boards, and all the local vendors and operators have been instrumental in making The Bahamas the destination of choice for millions.
Each of you, through your tireless efforts and commitment to excellence, has helped to weave the rich foundation of experiences that our visitors treasure. Your collaboration, innovation, and dedication have enhanced our tourism product and significantly contributed to our nation’s economic resilience.
To our airline partners, who have connected us with the world; to our hoteliers, who have provided exceptional hospitality; to our promotion boards, who have tirelessly marketed our islands; and to every local vendor and operator, who have shared the true spirit of The Bahamas – I offer my deepest gratitude.
Your collective efforts have met and exceeded expectations, ensuring every visitor to our shores leaves with lasting memories and a deep desire to return. This achievement is as much yours as it is The Bahamas’, and together, we will continue to build on this success to benefit our nation and its people.
Our government, with unwavering commitment, is dedicated to redefining the role of Bahamians in this thriving industry. We are not just participants; we are leaders, innovators, and beneficiaries. The advancement of Bahamians into senior roles within tourism is not a mere aspiration but a priority. It’s time for a paradigm shift, one where our people are not just employees but stakeholders, decision-makers, and pioneers.
Our vision is clear – an industry that benefits not only our valued investors and partners but every Bahamian. This industry must evolve to improve our competitive edge, ensuring that the benefits of tourism are equitably distributed and tangible in every community. We are not just focusing on attracting more visitors; we are enhancing their spending in our economy, channeling this into local businesses and communities, especially in our family islands.
The government’s investment in infrastructure – be it on family islands or at our airports – is a testament to our dedication to this cause. We recognize the need to expand and upgrade our facilities, like the Lynden Pindling International Airport, to accommodate our growing influx of visitors. This expansion is not just physical; it encompasses our strategic approach to increasing room inventory and diversifying our tourism offerings.
Our blueprint for change is not just a document; it’s a roadmap to a future where tourism is more inclusive, sustainable, and beneficial for all Bahamians. We are revamping our tourism model to harness the power of our rich culture, focusing on community-based initiatives and niche markets unique to each island.
Our commitment extends to providing capital access for Bahamians to establish boutique hotels, Airbnbs, and other tourism ventures, ensuring that the Bahamian spirit is the cornerstone of our hospitality.
Let’s be clear: the old ways of doing tourism are no longer viable. We need a seismic shift in our approach, one that goes beyond mere numbers and focuses on the real value and impact of tourism.
I would like to revisit an earlier point because I want my position to be extremely clear. It’s time for Bahamians to not just participate in tourism but to lead it. We are not just talking about jobs here; we are talking about ownership, leadership, and a stake in the heart of our nation’s most lucrative industry. The advancement of Bahamians into senior roles in tourism is not a favor; it’s a necessity for sustainable growth and true empowerment.
As we move forward, our strategy is two-fold: to sustain and grow our tourism numbers and to ensure that this growth translates into tangible benefits for every Bahamian. This involves deepening linkages between tourism and local industries, fostering a symbiotic relationship that supports local businesses and entrepreneurs. Diversification is not just a buzzword; it’s a crucial strategy for resilience. We aim to explore new markets, innovate our offerings, and create a dynamic and resilient economy that does not rely solely on one sector.
As we embrace this new paradigm, it’s crucial to address the need for tailored experiences that integrate our historic areas and communities. Our tourism product cannot solely rely on the allure of five-star properties where tourists remain within their confines. We must create avenues for tourism dollars to flow deeper into our economy, reaching every Bahamian.
The question we must ask is not just how we attract tourists, but how their presence benefits the wider community. How does the farmer in Andros or Cat Island get his produce onto the tables of our resorts like Baha Mar? How do we ensure that when a visitor spends a dollar in the Bahamas, it resonates through our economy?
Our strategy involves strengthening the linkages between our tourism sector and local industries. We’re talking about real, tangible connections – where local produce, arts, crafts, and services become integral to the tourism experience. This approach not only enriches the visitor experience with authentic Bahamian culture but also opens up new economic avenues for our people.
To achieve this, we are fostering partnerships between hotels, local businesses, and communities. These partnerships will ensure that the benefits of tourism are more evenly distributed, supporting the growth of small and medium enterprises and showcasing the rich cultural heritage and creativity of the Bahamian people.
Let’s be candid: the Bahamas is in the tourism industry for economic prosperity and to ensure a tangible return for every Bahamian. It’s not just about visitor numbers; it’s about the bottom line – how much we earn and how these earnings are distributed.
As a government, we are scrutinizing the concessions we grant. Every decision, every incentive must align with our economic goals. We are committed to policing our Heads of Agreement diligently. It’s time to delve into our numbers, to ask critical questions: Where is the money going? How much are we truly earning?
This is the question I leave with you, leaders of our tourism industry. As we embrace this transformative journey, let’s ensure that every decision, every strategy, contributes to the economic well-being of the Bahamas and its people.
The future of Bahamian tourism and, by extension, the Bahamian economy, rests in our hands. This is a collective journey, and it requires the dedication, creativity, and spirit of every Bahamian. Together, we will forge a path where The Bahamas is not just a premier global destination but a vibrant, diverse, and prosperous nation that offers opportunities and prosperity for all. Let’s seize this moment and create a legacy of growth, empowerment, and enduring prosperity for generations of Bahamians to come.