One of the major concerns from smaller-scale workers in the tourism sector is the lack of recognition by government agencies, lamented Interim Director of the Bahamas Association of Shore Experiences (BASE) Denise Johnson.
Pointing to last year when thousands of Bahamians went weeks without income, because they were not recognized as official tourism industry workers and were, therefore, unable to qualify for the government’s unemployment assistance program, Johnson urged small stakeholders to join the umbrella organization, charging that there’s strength in numbers.
“One of the concerns would be the lack of recognition from the government agencies. For example, with the NIB when assistance was given during the pandemic, there was a loss of wages for a long period of time as smaller-scale tourism workers and entrepreneurs were not considered tourism businesses, so that’s just one of the more direct concerns, that small businesses were not considered tourism businesses per se,” she said.
“So we want to make sure that we are clearly identified. Another concern is the lack of say in the tourism industry. People look at the larger organizations as the tourism industry, like the large resorts and hotels, but there are support services and other tourism entrepreneurs that really carry the industry as well.”
BASE was formed by the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC) to lobby on behalf of tourism-related businesses.
The umbrella organization is hoping to be formalized next month, following an inaugural annual general meeting and the election of officers.
TDC Linkages Manager and Chief Protocol Officer Craig Mortimer said the aim of the association is to raise standards and establish new best practices in the tourism sector.
“This is an opportunity for us to reshape the tourism industry. This is an opportunity for the small man to have a more powerful voice in reshaping what the industry will look like moving forward and the contributions we will make going forward,” he said.
“We see the success of it in other countries such as Jamaica and the Philippines. In India, they have successful umbrella associations that are banning together and lobbying the government for meaningful changes. You know there is power in numbers and if you look at an association and see it represents 20,000 to 30,000 people, the policy makers are going to take a second look and say wait, we better listen to what they have to say.”
Johnson and Mortimer stressed that the idea behind BASE is not to replace already formalized tourism associations but to partner with them under one umbrella to give them more advantages.
“These businesses and groups through the TDC will be allowed to give input on policies and legislation that will impact their line of work. BASE will also lobby to advocate for balanced policies as given to other tourism businesses, specifically hotels. For example with the Hotel Encouragement Act there are worldwide promotional opportunities,” Johnson said.
“It is a broad spectrum; so when we say an umbrella organization, we’re talking about persons who are a part of other associations like the vacation rental association, the marina operators, the food and beverage operators, so we’re not saying we are separate from them, we want to partner with them so that we can move forward on higher standards, policies and have a unified voice.”