Minister of Financial Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration Elsworth Johnson said it is hoped that the first Cat Island Business Outlook held last week would lead to Cat Island once again becoming a major player in The Bahamas’ economic space.
Cat Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay together contributed less than one percent to the annual gross domestic product last year, with a combined $35 million, representing 0.4 percent.
Johnson said Cat Island must look at the model of how other Family Islands have developed sustainably to chart out a path for economic growth on the island.
“I believe that today is truly an opportunity to chart a way forward to recover, not only from the pandemic and the corresponding economic fallout but also from our historical challenges of declining population growth and lack of critical investment in economic and social infrastructure. Both old and new challenges require bold, transformative and innovative solutions. Cat Islanders, we must adapt to the new paradigm of the modern era with creative solutions that embrace digitization, environmental sustainability, social and financial inclusion,” he said during the virtual event.
“We have advanced to embrace economic diversification, resilience, leveraging local and international partnerships. We must not sugarcoat these issues. There is no panacea to the economic, social and environmental challenges that we face. But I believe that they can be overcome with an onward looking innovative strategy. We must face these challenges head on to unlock the opportunities and potential of our great Cat Island. Providing a platform to discuss these changes is what I hope this first ever Cat Island Business Outlook 2021 will do.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Development Corporation Janet Johnson said while Cat Island has a lot to offer, it, unfortunately, has been the best kept secret in The Bahamas.
“When we looked at the analytics for Cat Island, we saw where lots of people are interested in it, they visit it online and that would indicate that there is great interest,” she said.
“But Cat Island has suffered extreme neglect.”
With just about 600 visitors to the island during 2020, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Tourism Ellison “Tommy” Thompson said Cat Islanders must capitalize on their niche market.
“One of the things we’ve seen is that private boaters and private aviation are quite important to Cat Island and a number of the southern islands. The number one market is the US, followed by Canada, followed by the UK and Florida is again the number one market that you need to put investment into if you’re going after that market,” he said.
“The age group is a little lower when you look at the boaters. It’s 45-54, followed very closely by your 55-65-year-olds. The majority of the visitors coming by private boat are male and that’s seen in the Generation X, Baby Boomers and Millennials.”