Address to the Rotary Club of Lucaya

By Terrance L. Roberts – Director of Business Development

Ministry of Tourism, Grand Bahama Island

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

The World Travel and Tourism Council’s

Blueprint for New Tourism

Citing a need to look beyond short-term considerations and focusing on benefits not only for people who travel, but also for the people in the communities they visit for their natural, social and cultural environments, the World Travel and Tourism Council has recommended a blueprint for new tourism. 

According to the WTTC report new tourism “dares to embrace a new dimension of Travel and Tourism. It is a mature response to a more complex world. Global consciousness of the importance of tourism has triggered a fresh look at the opportunities it represents. New Tourism is a new sense of coherent partnership between the private sector and public authorities. It is geared to delivering commercially successful products – but in a way that ensures benefits for everyone.”

A forum for global business leaders The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) comprises the presidents, chairs and CEOs of 100 of the world's foremost companies. It is reported to be the only body representing the private sector in all parts of the Travel & Tourism industry worldwide. Their mission is to raise awareness of the full economic impact of the world's largest generator of wealth and jobs - Travel & Tourism.

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in revealing its Blueprint for New Tourism issued a call to action for both government and the industry to make several long-term commitments to ensure the prosperity of Travel & Tourism - one of the world’s largest industries, responsible for 200 million jobs world-wide and over 10% of global GDP.

In the wake of terrorism, war, economic slowdown, SARS, tsunamis, and hurricanes of which the residents of Grand Bahama are painfully aware, the Blueprint for New Tourism contains a new vision for Travel & Tourism and strategies to guide its recovery from these series of unprecedented set backs over the past few years.

In order to meet the challenges ahead and achieve the vision, the Blueprint establishes three fundamental conditions:  
1. World governments must recognize Travel & Tourism as a top priority. To meet the first condition, governments must: 
• Elevate Travel & Tourism as an issue to the top level of policy making  
• Create a competitive business environment 
• Ensure that quality statistics and data feed into policy and decision-making 
• Invest in developing the appropriate human capital 
• Liberalize trade, transport, communications and investment 
• Build confidence in safety and security 
• Promote product diversification that spreads demand 
• Plan for sustainable tourism growth, in keeping with cultures and character 
• Invest in new technology, such as satellite navigation systems

2. Business must balance economics with people, culture and environment. In order to do so, the industry must: 
• Expand markets while protecting natural resources, local heritage and lifestyles 
• Develop people to narrow the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ 
• Provide traditional tourism products sensitively 
• Reduce seasonality and increase yields with imaginative new products  
• Improve quality, value and choice 
• Agree and implement quality standards at all levels 
• Transfer skills and best practice throughout the industry 
• Increase the sophistication of information, to make better business decisions 
• Communicate more broadly and more effectively

3. All parties must share the pursuit of long-term growth and prosperity. To achieve this objective, all the main stakeholders must:  
• Ally best practice in tourism with government policy 
• Prepare sustainable master plans for entire destinations 
• Create locally driven processes for continuous stakeholder consultation 
• Restructure national tourism boards  
• Set environmental policy goals that can be met 
• Develop and deploy skills effectively 
• Collaborate on information requirements 
• Collaborate on security 
• Develop confidence on all sides

Today, approximately 50% of all jobs in The Bahamas are tourist related. The tourism sector employs over 50,000 people. With a total labour force of over 150,000 the Bahamian economy depends heavily on the tourism sector to provide employment. The need to entice more stopover visitors becomes increasingly critical. 

The obvious benefits of tourism are that it brings in investors to develop hotels, visitor attractions and other activities, and therefore generates wealth; it provides foreign exchange; and jobs. It pays taxes to the central government which helps to build roads, schools, hospitals and so on; it promotes cross-cultural understanding as an element of peaceful development between people of different countries and continents; and it encourages the advancement of technology and training, which enhances living standards.

WTTC’s latest projection for the industry is that a quarter of a billion people will work in Travel & Tourism worldwide by the end of the decade, with the prospect of sustainable growth in to the future.

The Ministry of Tourism’ embrace for the call to action for new tourism, is reflected in our mission statement “To make it increasingly easier to create, sell and deliver world-class vacations to the individual islands of The Bahamas; satisfying to those who work in the tourism industry and live in the respective islands; satisfying according to those who invest in the industry; and satisfying to the visitors of each island”

It is the vision of the Ministry of Tourism that “Grand Bahama Island should be built up to stand on pillars, which are tourism, light industry& services, communications and financial services.

“Our unique strategic advantages are that we are a quality place to live and vacation, with a good climate, infrastructure and government in a great location and offering tax benefits to residents”.

Our objective is to work tirelessly to encourage and influence a profitable tourism industry that facilitates increased private investment, both local and foreign, in the tourism sector and especially in the hotel, resort sector; to increase foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector on GBI; to provide for increasing employment of Bahamians; to ensure the broadest distribution of income from tourism; and to Bahamianize the tourism industry as far as possible.

As a priority we must cause for the sale and a fast paced redevelopment of the Royal Oasis Resort & Casino, which when its doors closed, reduced GBI’s room inventory by nearly one third. The Ginn projects for West End and Discovery Bay, as well as the Marriott Barbary Beach projects represent some of the projects being addressed as a priority as we work very aggressively to re-energize the tourism sector on Grand Bahama Island.

Cruise Tourism is the fastest growing sector, albeit lower yielding tourism sector within our region and Grand Bahama must be positioned to receive its rightful share of this business. We know that the cruise passenger spend goes directly into the hands of Bahamian service providers, such as transportation professionals, straw and handicraft vendors, hair braiders and shop keepers, etc.

The Ministry is moving vigorously with the private sector in discussions with major players like Carnival Cruise Lines to influence the development of a new cruise port, along with support shopping and entertainment facilities in the Williamstown area, which will uplift Grand Bahama’s rating as a cruise port to enable it to achieve a cruise industry comparable to that of Nassau within a short span.

In summary ladies and gentlemen, in embracing the blueprint for the new tourism, we intend to create the critical mass on Grand Bahama Island. We intend to cause for more Bahamian households to come into being on Grand Bahama Island, we intend to grow our tourism base of transient and non transient visitors by two-fold within five years, i.e. reach the 1.2 million mark.

We at the Ministry of Tourism intend to provide the incentives and take the necessary decisions now, to relocate the passenger cruise terminal facility, which would in the first year of operations alone more than double cruise arrivals.

Thank you.