A boost for Grand Bahama’s economy
Carnival Cruise Line is building a new cruise port at Sharp Rock, four miles east of Lucaya in Freeport. The investment is expected to create more than 1,000 direct and indirect permanent jobs.
“What is being proposed will prove to be a significant catalyst for economic growth in Grand Bahama,” said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis at a town hall meeting to discuss the project in Freeport yesterday.
“…Grand Bahamians should prepare themselves for the potential benefits from the additional cruise passengers, including for shops, tour drivers, taxis, musicians, businesses and restaurants, hair braiders, arts and craft artisans and stores, souvenir producers and stores, and other enterprises.
“The development of heritage and culture experiences, programs and products is essential if we are to take greater advantage of the millions of cruise ship passengers who visit our shores annually.”
Grand Bahama needs investment. It’s had a hard time the last 15 years. From hits by Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, through the Great Recession and its lingering effects, hard times descended on the island.
There has been capital flight and high unemployment. Many residents left in search of work wherever they could find it. The unemployment rate in Grand Bahama was 11.9 percent in the most recent labor force survey, which was conducted in November. It has been much, much higher during that period.
Each year more than 4.6 million people come to The Bahamas on cruise ships. While it is true that these passengers spend much less than stopover visitors, the potential wealth to be gained from their large numbers cannot be ignored.
To maximize the benefits of the cruise industry, Bahamians need to get more into tour and excursion businesses. Cruise visitors are here for only a few hours. They want quick, interesting experiences that are affordable.
Previously it was thought cruise passengers spent around $70 per person. Recently released data from the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, however, indicates that figure in The Bahamas could be as high as $130. We would get more if we offered more attractive onshore activities.
The prime minister noted this in his remarks.
“This major project holds the promise of a myriad of opportunities for local businesses and entrepreneurs to fulfill their own visions of success and prosperity,” said Minnis.
A culture of whining and complaining has emerged in The Bahamas. “The government” is at fault for every problem, if you listen to those in this camp.
Investments are happening. The hardworking, creative and entrepreneurial among us will press forward and find ways to capitalize on these projects. Do not sit and wait for government handouts. Be a doer.
At best, government should create policy conditions to attract investment of all types – foreign and domestic. It is then up to the people to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in the marketplace.
The development of this cruise port won’t make Grand Bahama boom, but it is part of what is needed to help revive that island’s economy. If the government could next find a suitable buyer for the Grand Lucayan hotel, which it acquired, then more momentum would build for our once prosperous northern island.