Good morning, everyone.
I begin by thanking Prime Minister Holness for his remarks.
It’s indeed a pleasure to welcome you and your delegation to The Bahamas to mark this special occasion with us.
Ladies and gentlemen:
What a delight it is to be here today at the grand re-opening of the Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island.
The tourist economies of the Caribbean were hit especially hard during the Covid-19 pandemic, and today is a landmark moment, another important signal that The Bahamas is open for business.
There is about today a hint of deja-vu!
Just over five years ago, at a re-opening ceremony following the short closure of the resort for refurbishment, I declared that the value of the hotel industry to The Bahamas could never be overstated in terms of investment, tax contributions, and employment.
Of course, a few things have changed since then, not least the fact that the Bahamian people have kindly affected to have the word ‘Deputy’ removed from my title, and left me being just ‘Prime Minister’ – for which I continue to thank them.
But there have been other changes as well.
While the importance of the hotel industry is unchanged, the role and value of tourism to our economy is changing.
It remains and will remain our number one industry for a long time, but we are keen to remove some of the vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic.
We need to redouble our efforts to remain competitive.
We need to innovate.
We need to ensure that our value proposition remains compelling for our visitors, hoteliers, workers and our country.
And we also need to substantially diversify the economy.
This is not to say that we just want to do things separate and apart from tourism, but we also want tourism to be more integrated into those more diverse aspects of the economy.
Take our creative economy, the Orange Economy.
We want to encourage the industry to employ more of our Bahamian artists, buy more Bahamian products, and have our Bahamian culture sit even more prominently at the heart of the visitor experience.
But we cannot do it alone, and I am confident that Sandals are well-placed to partner with us in this effort.
Over the years, I have been very impressed with the team here.
There is a clear penchant for innovation, nestled at the heart of all you do, and a steadfast dedication to the highest standards of hospitality.
I particularly welcome the genuine commitment to the Caribbean displayed under the leadership of Adam Stewart, and his father before him.
We need more entrepreneurs like them, bold, visionary, and unashamedly celebrating the unique and multi-faceted delights of the jewels of the Caribbean.
Since their arrival in 1996, the Stewart family’s self-declared ‘love affair’ with The Bahamas lives on.
From that faithful beginning, this Jamaican-born brand has expanded its one-of-a-kind offering and brought many benefits to The Bahamas.
Following on from this multi-million-dollar renovation, many well-trained Bahamians will make up the full complement of 900 employees.
And Sandals Royal Bahamian will go on championing not only innovation, but the people and tourism product of this country.
Along with the commercial ties, the presence of the Sandals properties also symbolise the continued flourishing of the close and warm relationship that exists between Jamaica and The Bahamas.
Long may it continue!
My thanks again to the Stewart family, for their sustained commitment to partnering with us, and the Caribbean region at large.
And thank you to the hardworking staff who have made this re-opening possible: the construction workers, the hospitality professionals, and the managerial staff who have been so diligent.
I pray God’s blessings upon you all and wish you every success in this new phase of life for the ‘Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort’