COVID-19 is dealing a debilitating blow to the local economy, not unlike the crisis being faced by many other countries.
While it has reduced Downtown Nassau to a ghost town, Managing Director of the Downtown Nassau Partnership Ed Fields said one silver lining is the planned development of the Nassau Cruise Port.
The government and Global Ports Holding finalized a $250 million agreement last August for the redevelopment of Nassau’s cruise port.
Fields notes that we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to be ready for when the cruise industry resumes later in the year.
“The cruise industry will come back and when it does, we have to be ready with a revitalized destination, both on Woodes Rogers and Bay Street,” he told National Review.
“Landlords have to look at rents and how to incentivize new enterprise, like entertainment and culinary experiences. We did not wish to have to deal with the pain associated with COVID to be the catalyst for innovative thinking, but it happened and hence let’s not waste the opportunity.”
Fields added that all efforts, as it relates to downtown, must now be full speed ahead.
“We should be demolishing derelict buildings which can serve as economic stimulus, taking away any obstacles to creating residential units and putting in place a statutory entity for the long-term management and maintenance of the area covered under the Nassau Revitalization Act.”
Major cruise lines have agreed to suspend operations until September 15.
Nassau Cruise Port is projecting cruise arrivals into Nassau to decline by over 60 percent in 2020 compared to the record numbers in 2019.
But they also project that by 2022 we should be back to pre-COVID-19 numbers and then, moving forward, add an additional one million cruise arrivals into Nassau every five years, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said during the budget debate last week.
The port, which is set to be completed in 2022, will include a new terminal, a harbor village, a waterfront park, an amphitheater, a Junkanoo museum and new shops and restaurants. Additionally, the project will increase the number of berthing facilities for ships.
“Rather than Nassau going to sleep early every evening, Bahamians and visitors should enjoy a bustling and vibrant city with exciting nightlife and entertainment, featuring Bahamian and international culture, music and food,” the prime minister said at the time of the signing.
That would mean opportunities well beyond the direct dollars from cruise passengers — more than five million of whom visited The Bahamas last year.
Tony Skandaliaris, of Titan Hospitality, a restaurants and services company that employed more than 400 people pre-COVID, also believes there are opportunities that should be seized in the crisis to improve downtown.
“I think the lesson is we have neglected developing our domestic economy, especially when it comes to Bay Street,” Skandaliaris said.
“It’s 100 percent tourist-dependent on the cruise ships. If there were people living downtown, that would dictate the stores that go there. If there was a functioning city, we wouldn’t be 100 percent dependent on cruise ships…there are a lot of different businesses that come when it’s a functioning city. Right now, everything’s T-shirts and jewelry. That’s the only thing the tourists are looking for. It’s completely dependent on tourists.”