Business

Bahamas lacks large-scale cruise passenger excursions, laments D’Aguilar

Bahamian entrepreneurs are lacking projects of scale for cruise passengers coming into the Port of Nassau, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told Guardian Business yesterday, contending that shore excursions catering to 1,000 to 2,000 visitors that cause money to trickle down to other local businesses are the types of excursions needed for the 10,000 visitors visiting Nassau daily.

D’Aguilar pointed to Atlantis as the biggest excursion of scale that cruise ship visitors book regularly. He said Bahamian entrepreneurs have to begin thinking on a larger scale in order to attract a portion of the thousands of visitors that come on cruises.

“We lack projects of scale,” D’Aguilar said.

“There is lots to go around. 10,400 people is a lot of people every day. Bahamians can build excursions.

“It is not as if there is a capacity problem, it is not as if there is a customer problem. We’ve got more customers than we need.”

He said while the customers are here, there are not enough excursions “to soak them up”.

In 2019, 2,877,364 cruise passengers passed through the Port of Nassau, according to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.

Couple the lack of excursions with the increasing difficulty of getting passengers off the newer ships that offer myriad amenities and the problem is evident, he said. 

“It’s pretty difficult to lure people off of the newer ships,” he said. “What drives them off the ship?”

D’Aguilar said with the number of excursions that currently exist there still aren’t enough to accommodate all the cruise passengers who come to Nassau.

He added that when Bahamians create excursions, they have to be careful when negotiating with cruise lines to sell their packages aboard the ship, to ensure they are not disadvantaged by how much the ship sells their product.

D’Aguilar added that with the expansion and redevelopment of the Port of Nassau, the experience will become even more attractive for cruise visitors and more cruises’ visitors will come, increasing the need for more excursions.

Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Co. Ltd. (PILBC) principal Toby Smith is hoping to build one of those large-scale excursions across the water from the cruise port, with the transformation of the westernmost portion of Paradise Island, which contains a historic lighthouse.

Smith said he will develop the area into a beach club over the course of 18 months at a cost of $2 million, if the government gives his project the green light.

But this paper understands Smith might be competing with Royal Caribbean International on the little strip of land at the far western end of Paradise Island, that has a small length of beach called Colonial Beach. 

It was revealed yesterday that Royal Caribbean has already begun purchasing plots of land on Paradise Island, while Smith, who has been working on his project for eight years, awaits the government’s decision on his plans for the Crown land. 

That decision could come next week, this paper understands.

Smith told Guardian Business two weeks ago that he hopes to build a low-density beach club for Bahamians and tourists alike to enjoy.

“We would like to get started as soon as we can,” he said.

“When it comes to fruition it will be able to handle a big volume of people. Breaking even is totally achievable.

“If a cruise ship is taking four and a half to five thousand people, I think I’m gonna be smart enough to get enough people for my break-even point.

“I’d love to be able to have as many Bahamians over here as possible, I think it’s going to be a great day away to have an historical adventure.”

He has already begun to tidy up the land, where people have left heaps of trash and the tide has washed up loads of waste from the harbor.

“Simple is good,” he said. “We are not trying to build a concrete jungle here, we’re trying to build something that’s low-impact, sustainable and all enveloping of what The Bahamas and Bahamians are all about.”

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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