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Minister: Bay Street ‘Like A Dying Centre’

BY NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The Minister of Tourism has admitted that Bay Street “is like a dying centre”, as he pushes for duty-free shopping status to tackle its lack of variety and recognised retail brands.

Obie Wilchcombe said that making downtown Nassau a duty-free shopping zone will ultimately lure more tourists as well as locals, adding that the area has too many jewellery stores and had been ‘infiltrated’ by foreigners.

In an interview with Tribune Business, Mr Wilchcombe acknowledged that there is a need to increase cruise visitor spending in the downtown area, adding that this could only be achieved if the product was improved.

He said Bay Street has few visible brands, and should be a shopping and restaurant centre.

The Minister was speaking to Tribune Business following the release of a tri-annual survey by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA), which listed The Bahamas as the most expensive destination for the cruise ship industry, and also found that total cruise passenger spending in Freeport and Nassau had ‘flat-lined’ over the past three years.

“Bay Street has John Bull and very few other brands,” Mr Wilchcombe admitted. “Bay Street should be a shopping centre and restaurant centre.

“If you look at the west, where Baha Mar is, and Paradise Island, they are going to have attractions. Bay Street is like a dying centre; it needs life. We have to bring life to Bay Street. We have to do some dynamic things. We have to cause for shopping to be better.

“If you look at what’s happening on Bay Street, we have allowed Bay Street to be infiltrated with too many foreigners, and they are dominating the stores . We have so many jewellery stores,” he added.

“We just did a survey of the number of stores on Bay Street, and of the just under 300 stores many are simply jewellery stores, and we are not providing enough variety. Some of the top brands in the world should be on Bay Street.”

Mr Wilchcombe said he had been appointed by Prime Minister Perry Christie to chair a Cabinet sub-committee that will examine how to make Bay Street more “viable”.

“We are preparing comments now. I’m pushing that Bay Street can become that duty free area that will cause more visitors and Bahamians to come and shop. We have to find a way to do it, and we’re working on that now,” said Mr Wilchcombe.

Comments

OMG 3 years, 8 months ago

Typical rhetoric " blame the foreigners when the Government has no foresight and always reacts after the fact. Take so called " DUTY FREE" liquor shopping. Who is kidding who. Liquor and beer is much cheaper in the USA even after tax. Can you imagine almost $60 for a case of Heineken and home produced Kalik cheaper in the states.

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GrassRoot 3 years, 8 months ago

I guess you are right, the Chinese are not foreigners anymore here.

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themessenger 3 years, 8 months ago

Of course 'its like a dying center'. There is nothing of interest on Bay St only a myriad of cheap tee shirt shops and jewelry stores interspersed with liquor outlets, even our 'world famous' straw market doesn't sell authentic Bahamian crafts. Unless you drive a taxi don't even think of finding a parking place anywhere within a quarter mile of downtown, and if by a small miracle you do then those biggity young policemen who swarm all over Bay St will run you after half an hour or have your car towed. Sorry Obie,there isn't much on Bay St to entice our visitors and even less for Bahamians.

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banker 3 years, 8 months ago

Hmmm ... the term "infiltrated by foreigners" sounds an awfully like the old PLP playing the Roots movie over and over at election time. It sound terribly pejorative coming from a cabinet minister. And yet, he is a simpleton retard when you examine the logic. Let me spell it out.

He says that there are too many foreigners. In the next breath, he says that there should be recognised major brands. Ahem -- those recognised major brands are all ... guess what ... they are all foreigners.

Now, this blazing idiot with feces for brains insults foreigners and then wants to invite other foreigners in. Doesn't anyone have a brain in the PLP?

The other issue, is that the whole world now knows how a foreigner investing in his money is treated by the government, thanks to the Baha Mar fiasco with Sarkis Izmirlian. So if I am a major owner or decision-maker, would I want to invest in a place where the playing field is stacked against me at the whims of the government?

What the minister of Tourism fails to understand about business, is that it is a very Darwinian, self-adapting organism. It fills niches. If there are only jewelry stores selling cheap, tawdry jewelry, then that is what the market wants. The small percentage of cruise passengers who get off the cruise ships, don't want major brands, otherwise John Bull would be chock-a-block full of people. They carry all of the major brands.

The dunderhead minister is still trying to sell an outdated paradigm in tourism. People don't get off the boat to shop. The recent stats prove it. They get off the boat for an experience. Tourism has become experiential, not the shopping and sun, sand, sea and gambling. The minister is way behind the times, and doesn't know anything about Tourism despite being minister of it. That has been the problem for the past 20 or so years. And when he insults foreigners who would provide the tourism experience, he is just adding another nail to the coffin of the economy.

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Economist 3 years, 8 months ago

Since the early 1970's the government of the day has gone after the cruise ship passenger.
This was so they could tell the voters that they were brining in more tourists. Over a million, 3, 4 and so on. What government did not concern itself with was what type of cruise ship passenger they were getting just as long as the numbers went up. The fact is that when they encouraged Carnival to come in they had opted for the bottom of the barrel, no spend, cheap tourist. The shops and restaurants on Bay Street cater to the business that they can get and that is why everything is cheap and run down. Mr. Minister, you are the problem. Change your approach, stop going for the quantity and go for quality. Go for tourists who spend money and in another 5 or 10 years you will see a big change.

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GrassRoot 3 years, 8 months ago

clueless. just does not know what to else talk about. sell it to the Chinese and all gets better. We will have the Greek Restaurant run by Chinese, the T-Shirt Shop by Chinese, the Jewelery store run by Chinese. And the Bahamians will be slaving for minimum wage. But hey, as I said the Chinese have become natives in the mindset of this Government.

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ohdrap4 3 years, 8 months ago

many years ago i used to shop downtown, i also used to bank downtown. i had to get there by bus.

the shops i bought from are gone, the ones that sold books, linens and cashmere sweaters. ironmongery, nassau shop, island shop, paris shop, bernards, etc...

i started shopping and banking at the malls. now i bank mostly from my computer and shop online.

a lot of crap being sold downtown, and i cannot afford the 2,000 watches.

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sansoucireader 3 years, 8 months ago

Exactly! At least then stores sold things people could use in their daily lives. Today there is nowhere to park downtown and nothing to buy. For your daily shopping needs you head to the malls where there is unlimited parking.

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ThisIsOurs 3 years, 8 months ago

And Benetton! Then the previous owner retired and I guess and it suddenly became a gateway for cheap outlet style items..a fitting metaphor for all of Bay Street. Just don't sell it to the Chinese, sorry some things should always be wholly Bahamian and HISTORIC NASSAU is one of them.

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Greentea 3 years, 8 months ago

The tourism minister is clueless. imagine what insight he would bring to the leadership of this country if he ever becomes prime minister- frightening. Make Bay Street attractive to Bahamians first and maybe the center of town would become a place visitors might want to be. Allow for proper parking, takes forever to find a place to to into John Bull or the linen shop- the last two real stores in town. No music spaces, no book stores, no art galleries, no sidewalk cafes, no food store or nicely stocked convenience store, no bahamian goods store, no florist, no hardware store, two or three clothing stores, but quality dicey, all the shoe stores gone, number houses present though. Like the economy- Bay Street has NO diversity and NO Life- so it should come as no surprise that economy is as run down as Bay Street. ANd as rundown as those buildings are- the OWNERS refuse to do anything with them, charge rental rates as high as Como Hill and raise it higher if the business seems half successful or they have a child interested in starting a similar business- the same business- in that spot. And they won't sell. Make the landlords use, refurbish or sell the space - brokered by a Mayor of Nassau office who only approves sale to those with a plan for redevelopment. Its good to dream.

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lookingon 3 years, 8 months ago

Why should I shop downtown when I can sit on my comfortable sofa and use my laptop to purchase fabulous bargain sale items from J.C. Penney? Sorry minister, Bay Street does not have what I need....electronic shopping is here to stay....Need some ideas? Instead of burying our history and culture, let's promote those products for the tourists and locals. Come on let's promote education for a change.

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happyfly 3 years, 8 months ago

Talk about a useless waste of air he breath. The guy can't even come up with a decent euphemism. "Bay Street is like a dying center" What is that ?

The minister of tourism's number one priority should have been the rejuvenation of Bay Street and all he can do three years later is blame "the infiltration of foreigners" and talk about a "dying center". How did this guy become a member of parliament and made a minister ? This government is so bad it has got to be a bad dream.

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

IF you talk to someone over the age of 50, they would tell you that, for Bahamians, going downtown, Nassau, was an event which you planned for and dressed up for. It was an occasion to walk proudly down Bay Street and 'be proud to be Bahamian.' Whether it was a visit to Kelly's, The Stop 'N Shop, The Nassau Shop, John Bull, the Park Store or to go to BEC to pay your light bill, or just walk through the straw market, or go to the feed store behind it for those who had pigeons or chickens, or even to buy fresh fish or conch. Bahamians easily intermingled with the tourists and during events like Christmas, Easter and Valentines Day, they younger Bahamian visited the numerous jewelry stores, in search for that special something for that special someone. Then as Paradise developed into a tourist mecca, the forces that be felt that the presence of Bahamians, who were not employed and working on their properties, cheapened the tourist product. Most of the Bahamians were black, you see, and many of the visitors were not. In fact they were from places that did not intermingle with 'them'. So a move became afoot to restrict Bahamians on Paradise, and even much of the music and entertainment provided by Bahamians was replaced by foreigners. Then when the two malls were built in the late 1980's, early 1990's many in the tourist trade saw it as an opportunity to reclaim Bay Street and downtown for our visitors (or theirs) pushed Bahamians off Bay Street and back 'over the hill.' There is no longer a need for 'them' to come downtown, they have their own shopping malls, they harass the tourist, they sell drugs, they commit robberies. And so the police got involved, stopping and searching young men who ventured down town, putting some on the jitney and tell them, if you come back down here, I ger lock you up." And many of the storekeepers also bought into the lie, that things would be better if Bahamians 'get run of Bay Street.' Little did they realize that the same Bahamians contributed significantly to their bottom line and to the success of their businesses. When there were no cruise ships in port or when tourism was in an off season, it was the local Bahamian that kept hope alive. AND so Bay Street started to dry up, because Paradise Island was trying to keep all its guests over the bridge and the cruise ships were trying to get all their passengers to stay on board and spend their money on the ship. If you look at the anatomy of Bay Street the Eastern area is the most hardest hit and is where most of the empty buildings are..desserted just about. .

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

This is the area that catered mostly to Bahamians and, while some of the stores have relocated to the mall and to Palmdale, others have had to close because of the lack of business. Irony is that one of the largest tourist investors relocated here because of apartheid. And they have been the driving force behind much of the effort to exclude Bahamians from the beaches and from down town and from everywhere except where they live and where they work. That changed the mentality of Bahamians...think about it. Then go and visit city centrals, like West Palm Beach, that have been redesigned to be all-inclusive and record the success of them. Young people and old folk intermingle, rich and poor, persons from all parts of the world.

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

when you drive down town on any given day, not only is there a lack of parking, but you will pass over 50 police officers from the British Colonial to where the bus stop is located. Each and every single one of these officers has a traffic ticket book in his/her hand. Since most tourist don't drive in Nassau, who you think they are targeting? What subliminal message are they sending you?

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TalRussell 3 years, 8 months ago

Oh Dear Comrades gone are the days when Bay Street attracted steady flows of Nassau Town's residents from all walks life, mixed in with the tourists and ever smiling visiting islanders anxious get their front-row seats on the latest news on just about anything of importance or gossip of going on's in and around we Bahamaland.
Not so today, not only has it become an uninviting and unfriendly place but 'een nothin' much you can see or hear there today - excepting much too loud and foul language and often spoken in languages sounding strange we natives ears . What is happening to our Bahamaland. At what point did we just give up?
Chances of spotting an visiting Out Islander are about as slim to you bumping into a tourist, not asking for directions to McDonald's Hamburgers.
Our elected members House of Assembly - even gone canceled we Junkanoo on us natives and residents and now renamed it Carnival.

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SP 3 years, 8 months ago

.......................................... Jackass's does as jackass's is ...........................................

Bay Street and the total Bahamas is exactly where 43 years of visionless leadership has led it!

Typical ignorant, asinine, Bahamian politicians can't find sand on the beach unless some foreign entity declares to the world that they have failed.

Bahamians have been telling successive governments literally for decades that our tourism product was dying and neither government did anything to address the issue.

After the fact, Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) has echoed exactly what many of us preached and warned the idiots about decade in and decade out until we got sick and tired of warning and begging these dumb jackass politicians to pay attention to our dying tourism product.

Now dancing jackass number one has commissioned pokerface jackass who has absolutely no experience in tourism to chair a Cabinet sub-committee that will blindly reinvent the wheel examining how to make Bay Street more “viable”.

Simple solution - GET RID OF THE PLP AND FNM THAT DESTROYED THE COUNTRY!!

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jackbnimble 3 years, 8 months ago

Actually the Minister is right. The foreigners have taken over. Indians have purchased Skans and turned it into a jewelry store. I understand they are in the process of purchasing another major perfume store in the same area. I only question who is allowing it. They have to get their licenses from the Government and if they purchase it has to be registered with the Investments Board. The buck stops with the Government.

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MonkeeDoo 3 years, 8 months ago

I am told that these Mexican silver shops have no business and are simply laundering money. Probably cash. But if so why have their bankers not wondered why they are not paying for goods. How much silver is being imported ? Customs ought to know ! If any other than initial inventories. The Central Bank should see how much US Cash is being deposited in local banks. Is it reasonable ?

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MonkeeDoo 3 years, 8 months ago

And in another month they will be putting fence poles in the sidewalks to mount the chain link fencing on. Guantanamo Bay is more picturesque. The children can't read nor write, but they can do the Junkanoo shuffle as soon as they can walk.

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John 3 years, 8 months ago

MEANWHILE IN FLORIDA, where Bahamians love to shop (and eat): , "3 Aventura Mall Food Court restaurants ordered shut Live and dead roaches found at restaurants . http://www.local10.com/news/3-aventur...">http://www.local10.com/news/3-aventur... . seems like the entire food court in Adventura Mall is infected with cock roaches if 15-20 was found 'one one wall' in a restaurant.

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SP 3 years, 8 months ago

..................... Nairobi, Kenya Is a shining example of what Indians do ......................

One of the first things that slaps you hard in the face in downtown Nairobi is in a city with a 99.9% black population traversing the streets, Indians had absolutely, literally taken over not only 100% the gold and jewelry markets in Nairobi, BUT EVERY TOURIST RELATED RETAIL SHOP IN THE CITY!

Kenyan residents tell stories of how Indians moved in and took over with tremendous stealth.

Bahamians will never be able to compete with Indians in gold and jewelry businesses because India is one of the worlds major importers of these commodities.

http://www.gold.org/jewellery/india-m...">http://www.gold.org/jewellery/india-m...

Our lousy ass government are similarly allowing Bay Street to be overtaken by Indians. Same as Kenya corrupt politicians allowed Nairobi to fall lock, stock and barrel into the hands of Indian merchants.

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killemwitdakno 3 years, 8 months ago

But government and the Chamber does nothing to invite Bahamians. They'll help Izmirlian and Nygard get Chinese and Medical investors but no Venture Capital for locals.

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