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Shanghai World Expo delegation plants seed

The tourism manager that headed the country’s first delegation to the Shanghai World Expo says this emerging economy holds tremendous promise in terms of investment – and direct flights must be instituted to take the relationship forward.

After spending six months in China, from June until November, Prescott Young told Guardian Business that curiosity there is spreading.

“What I found very interesting is many had never even heard of The Bahamas,” he said. “We invested in two globes and we were able to pinpoint our exact location.

“It was a great opportunity to inform the Chinese on where we are located, discussing investment opportunities and promoting tourism in The Bahamas.”

As the manager in charge of overseeing the first-ever delegation in Shanghai, Young was joined by five Bahamians from the Ministry of Tourism and one individual from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Bahamas, he added, had its own specific pavillion dedicated to advertising, tourism and investment.

Young said he was “amazed” by the degree of interest among the Chinese in travelling to The Bahamas.

With this in mind, he felt it was essential for a direct flight to be brought in between the two countries as soon as possible. At the moment, Chinese tourisms are forced to go through the U.S. or Europe and obtain a visa there.

In August, Guardian Business reported that Brent Symonette, the deputy prime minister, said simplifying the visa procedure for Chinese tourists was a major step in relations.

He said the government was “seeking a possible way to speed up the process or eliminate the process entirely”.

These comments have been echoed by David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism, adding that an “E-Distribution” system is being considered to put the visa procedure online.

According to Johnson and Symonette, Chinese  tourists can only apply for a visa to The Bahamas in Beijing, the nation’s capital.

Simplifying the procedure and adding direct flights would give The Bahamas access to the most populated country of Earth.

Young pointed out that a direct flight is also much more practical.

“It would alleviate the issue of having to transit through another country, and I think a lot of people travelling from that distance want to get on and then get off at their final destination,” he added.

In terms of investment opportunities, the delegation said there was a great deal of interest in the maritime and agricultural sectors.

The Chinese were also interested in hotels and forming relationships with local stakeholders.

But most importantly, Young felt the delegation was “planting a seed” by letting the Chinese know about what The Bahamas represents.

“The main objective in my mind was to create an awareness and give them an idea for the opportunities,” he explained. “We are planting a seed. I don’t think we’ll get instant results, but I think that awareness is growing.”

His impression of the World Expo was a true “opening up” of an emerging economy as it takes its place in the global world order. In a society that has traditionally been closed off, Young said he felt an openness, curiosity and sense of opportunity that was impossible to ignore.

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