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Speed Week 'Can Become Like Monaco'

By NEIL HARTNELL Tribune Business Editor BAHAMAS Speed Week Revival organisers are examining whether to create a permanent race track in the Arawak Cay area, the minister of tourism telling Tribune Business that this nation could effectively match Monaco if the event becomes an annual calendar fixture. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace explained that while last week's event was more of an exhibition of vintage racing cars, designed to re-establish Speed Week in the international market, the long-term plan was to take it to the level where, once again, exhibition races were being held in the Bahamas. While the old Oakes Field site was being eyed as one potential site, given that it would tie-in with the Government's $50 million plans to upgrade the area, the minister confirmed that turning the Arawak Cay area into a race track - Speed Week used it last week - was another option. "We have someone here looking at designing potential race tracks," Mr Vanderpool-Wallace told Tribune Business. "We're looking at that long-term commitment. We're looking at two places, and are really excited about where it is now." The Arawak Cay area would still be accessible by the general public, as normal, throughout the remainder of the year when Bahamas Speed Week was not taking place. Mr Vanderpool-Wallace, though, described a race track encompassing West Bay Street, Arawak Cay and Fort Charlotte as "entirely doable", and said: "It would be a fantastic destination to put it on. We are looking very seriously at that. Were the Bahamas able to secure TV coverage of the event, Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said they would be able to film motor sports against the backdrop of the perfect tourism advertisement for the Bahamas - cruise ships and Atlantis/Paradise Island in the background, coupled with clear blue waters and luxury, high-end yachts moored offshore. This, the minister of tourism suggested, could rank the Bahamas alongside Monaco as a glamorous motor sports destination. The cachet could, in turn, attract further visitors and high net worth individuals to the Bahamas. "It depends entirely on where we go from here," Mr Vanderpool-Wallace told Tribune Business. "Everybody looks at the Holy Grail of Monaco, where people come with all the glitteratti, the yachts, the planes and the glamour. "It [Bahamas Speed Week] can become of that order, and we have a setting that is second to none in terms of any place around the world and what we can show off when people watch the race. That is amazing, and it can become very exciting." Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said part of the strategy behind the timing of Bahamas Speed Week Revival 2011 was to fill what was traditionally a relatively slow period in the Bahamian tourism calendar prior to the Christmas/New Year period. He added that there were few events that could command international audience attention "like a quality motor sport", and by targeting this niche - which attracts avid enthusiasts, many of whom are wealthy - the Bahamas was getting them to focus on this country as a destination via their favourite pastime. International media from the US, UK and as far afield as South Africa had been attracted to Bahamas Speed Week Revival, Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said, thus generating publicity in current - and potentially new - overseas markets. "We have something special here, and a long legacy we can build upon," the minister told Tribune Business. "We're getting them to focus on this destination through their passion, and that is where the great value is coming from." Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said the development of events such as Bahamas Speed Week was taking place through the public-private partnership model, which was "working very well". Much like Marathon Bahamas, he explained that the event needed private sector groups to manage it and back it with financial resources, rather than rely just on the Ministry of Tourism's patronage.

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