BHTA chief outlines urgent issues plaguing tourism sector

Several critical issues continue to hamper the tourism sector – airlift growth and cost, unused room capacity, import substitution and hotel licensing – President of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Robert “Sandy” Sands said yesterday.

Sands, speaking at the Bahamas Business Outlook, explained that airlift remains a critical issue for family island hotels and those on New Providence. He said part of that critical issue is how expensive it is to fly from the US to The Bahamas compared to other destinations in the region or even farther.

“If we’re going to continue to grow our business, we’re going to have to grow airlift capacity, but more importantly fix the cost of airlift capacity,” he said.

“There is a saying in the travel business, it’s cheaper to fly beyond The Bahamas than to come to The Bahamas from the United States, those are some of the issues we have to address.”

Sand said another critical issue is that hotels must begin to purchase much more goods produced locally. He said the BHTA plans to work more collaboratively with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) in order to ensure the tourism sector utilizes more of what is produced in The Bahamas within the local hotels.

Sands also explained that the tourism sector has to find a way to address the problem of unused room capacity in the Family Islands and New Providence. He explained that on average 30 percent of rooms go unused.

He added that the government must streamline the hotel licensing process, which has become a “big issue” annually, with hotels having to satisfy the processes of several different government agencies.

“Perhaps the day has come where we need a single agency under one roof, where all of the various government agencies work under one umbrella,” he said.

Sands said any future legislation that impacts The Bahamas’ hospitality industry needs to “be one that is red carpet and not red tape”, so as to not impede the growth the sector has enjoyed.

Lastly, Sands touched on the need for affordable, reliable electricity throughout the archipelago, explaining that those costs have become an urgent issue for the hotel sector.

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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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