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Minnis Wants Grand Bahama To Be ‘Renowned’ For Duty-Free Shopping

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday detailed his administration’s tourism strategy, highlighted by plans to introduce several initiatives to re-energise Nassau and rebrand Grand Bahama as a “renowned duty-free shopping centre.”

In an address at the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association’s board of directors and membership association meeting, Dr Minnis committed his administration to a myriad of schemes and proposals he said were geared toward diversifying the nation’s tourism product.

Referring to all of the multinational resorts, boutique hotels, fishing lodges, water sport operations and ground transportation companies currently operating, Dr Minnis suggested that further diversification of these enterprises can increase the country’s overall profit margin.

The Killarney MP insisted that this style of diversification will play a major role in the “master plan” his administration intends to roll out over the course of its term in office. 

Alluding to the setbacks and shortfalls brought on by Baha Mar over the last two years, Dr Minnis said his administration’s plan will look to strengthen the links between foreign direct investment and home-grown businesses, instead of hinging opportunities primarily on the backs of the former.

Dr Minnis went on to pitch what he called an “incentive framework for entrepreneurs,” a system he said would facilitate local and international access to capital, encourage joint ventures among private interest; facilitate the improvement of business advisory and encourage the cultivation of tools to stimulate Bahamian entrepreneurship in tourism.

He said it was time for bold thoughts on how Bahamians could own or be involved in multiple dimensions of tourism.

“Twenty-first century travellers seek more than the proverbial sun, sand and sea. They travel in search of unique and authentic experiences. Ours is a richly textured culture, our history, music, food, dance, art, craft and our folkways are distinctly different. We must fully capitalise on our culture and heritage to add a more vibrant visitor experience,” stated Dr Minnis.

He later added that the formation of joint ventures will be a central approach to the execution of projects, inclusive of the restoration and maintenance of historic sites and the designation of iconic locations.

Of these sites, Dr Minnis specified Clifton Heritage National Park in New Providence, Mount Alvernia in Cat Island and the Columbus Monument in San Salvador and plantation ruins on other islands.

Dr Minnis said the country is “nowhere near” monetising the number of cruise ship passengers coming to the Bahamas, and as such, he said he views these “heritage experiences” as a prime avenue for expansion.

“My government is committed to completing the National Museum of the Bahamas for the benefit of Bahamians primarily, but also as a heritage experience for tourists. Cruise passengers throughout the world visit museums. Imagine if New Providence can provide more of these experiences,” Dr Minnis said.

Among his recommendations for initiatives in New Providence Thursday, Dr Minnis called for the refurbishment of Festival Place, the creation of a native food market in the Over-the-Hill community, the construction of a maritime museum at the Lowell J Mortimer Maritime Institute and the development of heritage and eco-tours throughout the country through the use of signage, on par with the Blue Plaque system used in the United Kingdom.

“I suggest that we develop the Aqua Plaque, which can be used as a heritage marker in the Bahamas. Bahamian designer Carla Whittingham has already designed a prototype, which is cast in appropriate material for our climate. The Aqua Plaque should be utilised with other signage to note the significance of the heritage site in question and to recall noted Bahamians associated with the site.”

Dr Minnis said he plans to direct the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to collaborate on making the scheme a reality as soon as possible.

Of the proposed native food market, Dr Minnis said that the market’s physical structure would be adorned with Bahamian art and will act as a major economic empowerment and revitalisation project for that community.

“Our native food market will welcome scores of Bahamians and tourists. It will provide business opportunities and allow many Bahamians to sell their goods and products. The native food market will have a variety of foods and products for sale from ice cream to potato and cassava bread, tamarind sauce, local teas and other Bahamian treats.”

Lastly, of the refurbishment of Festival Place, the prime minister said plans are in place to convert the welcome centre into a commercial and recreational space conducive to retail and restaurant businesses.

He added that the move would help to re-energise the city of Nassau and provide more engaging interactions for cruise passengers and more economic opportunities for Bahamians.

Dr Minnis’ roughly 30-minute address Thursday spoke primarily to re-build the brand identity of Grand Bahama, while incentivising investments on that island.

The Killarney MP said it is the goal of his administration to make the island of Grand Bahama a renowned duty-free shopping centre for residents and millions of visitors from around the world.

Dr Minnis said the government is prepared to roll-out a “workable plan” for tourism in Grand Bahama that would position the city of Freeport and the district of Lucaya as a maritime, sports and wellness destination; East Grand Bahama as an eco-tourism mecca and West Grand Bahama as a site for culture.

Dr Minnis also spoke of how his government would look to facilitate the economic empowerment of the Family Islands through grants of Crown land, assistance with technical and marketing support and particular tax exemptions for specified periods.

He said his administration intended to invest in the modernisation of Family Island infrastructure with the goal of providing clean potable water, good roads, modern airports and docks and will incentivise locally owned airlines to establish local hubs for inter-island transportation through strategic partnerships.

Additionally, he said the government will actively seek to increase travel from both traditional and non-traditional airlift markets.

In the long-term, Dr Minnis said his government will work towards introducing legislation to make it attractive for international filmmakers to produce cinematic productions at a fraction of the cost comparable to other leading off-site film locations.

He also called for the registration of hospitality products such as vacation rental homes, which are currently operating outside of regulations, to “level the playing field” and ensure national standards of safety and quality.

Dr Minnis said his government will also look to build linkage between agriculture and tourism, focusing efforts at Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute on the production of select products for local and export markets; privatise produce exchange, provide land, supplies, equipment and business services to Bahamian farmers to support the industry.

The government also plans to introduce tax incentives and concessions to encourage Bahamian farmers and farming cooperatives throughout the country to promote sustained production and packaging initiatives and to ensure the continuous supply of quality products.

Additionally, Dr Minnis said his administration intends to augment the resources of tourism police to ensure the safety and security of visitors, noting that it would be the only way tourism could survive.

The Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association meeting was held at the Hilton Hotel.

Comments

sheeprunner12 4 months ago

Where is the former Member for High Rock with his brilliant investment plan ........ the one that Ingraham put at the back of the room????????

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Publius 4 months ago

What is the plan for all the major hotels on Grand Bahama that are still closed, as is the island's only casino? They keep pretending as if that island has actual beds for heads in any large number.

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BahamaPundit 4 months ago

It is time to free Free Port!!! Remove all restrictions to US, Canadian and UK persons and companies moving there for comercial purposes. No work permits required. No duty. No BIA approvals. The Government would still make a killing from stamp tax, VAT and company incorporation fees. If this is done, Free Port real estate would pop overnight. In ten years, it could become another NYC with skyscrapers etc. Nassau residents would flock there due to its booming economy and Nassau would become less over populated. The US government would start investing in The Bahamas again. Only sector reserved strictly for Bahamians should be the commercial fishing sector. We would still have the rest of The Bahamas all to ourselves. We have no choice. We are bankrupt! Time to be innovative. Time to put The Bahamas on the map again. It is time to free Free Port or die a slow death of financial stagnation and ruin.

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Gotoutintime 4 months ago

You mean bring it back to where it was before 1967??

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proudloudandfnm 4 months ago

Prime Minister Minnis...

THANK YOU!!!

It is so damned good to see you speaking about Freeport and acknowledging our situation right now. We sincerely appreciate this sir.

But. And thers is always a but isn't there? Freeport is much worse than you say. We need everything you listed sir. So we are glad to see this. But we also need immediate action. These things are wonderful but they won't help us pay our bills in two weeks. People's electricity is being cut off because people cannot pay their bill and not many can tell GB Power WHEN they can pay their bills because jobs are incredibly scarce right now. So everything you said is excellent and truly appreciated. But we need your help NOW sir.

And by the way. Our industrial sector took WAY more hits than our tourism sector the last few years. Between the oil market crash and the PLP's extremely ignorant (and I can prove it was ignorant, research the new C-10 fee for proof) revenue hunt our industrial sector is also down SIGNIFICANTLY.

This is exactly why you need to set time aside on your visit here this weekend to sit with us so we can give you the full picture sir.

Thank you once again, we appreciate your statement...

But we need help now as well as in the long term...

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birdiestrachan 4 months ago

What country in the world would give away one of their islands or states and leave only fishing for the natives? How are they better than Bahamians?

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kkphilli4 4 months ago

I agree. By the way, does anyone know exactly how many of our islands have been sold to wealthy foreigners as "private islands." Our islands are priceless and should never be sold. Lease yes, sold no. We soon won't be able to call them the Bahama Islands because we sold our islands away.

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OldFort2012 4 months ago

You are so right. One of those foreigners might decide to put one of the islands in a suitcase and take it home with him. You never know with them! They are foreigners after all. They might have super-human powers.

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Economist 4 months ago

Birdie, how many islands in the Thousands Islands, in Canada, have been sold to foreigners....oh that's right, the Canadians are not xenophobic.

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banker 4 months ago

Speaking of Thousand Islands in Canada, Americans were gobbling them up and selling them to the Chinese ... AND ... the Chinese were defaulting. This a story from Kingston Ontario Canada from a couple of years ago:

The Chinese industrialists who purchased the Eagle Point Winery and its luxurious modern castle on the river less than three years ago have defaulted on their loan and the ownership of the properties has reverted to the former owner.

In a foreclosure judgment issued Oct. 14, Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Kane ordered that ownership of the winery near Escott, the mansion at 697 Thousand Islands Parkway and seven related properties return to Terry S. Dixon.

The court also ordered the Chinese interests, which operate under the name of CN-CA Cultural Centre Inc., to pay Dixon $13.54 million, which is the balance of the loan, interest and costs.

Reached at his home in Morriston, Fla., Dixon, 77, was reluctant to talk about the foreclosure, saying "it's our private lives" but he confirmed the properties are back in his hands.

"We just took the property back and we're going to resume operations as previously planned," Dixon said.

Asked whether he planned to put the properties back on the market, Dixon said plans are still up in the air.

"We really don't know what we're going to do yet," said Dixon, a multi-millionaire who made his money with a string of car dealerships in the Western United States.

Which brings up an interesting point. Why don't we have a winery in the Bahamas? There are places warmer than here that make wines.

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birdiestrachan 4 months ago

Has doc said anything new? oh is the same old thing again The man has no vision he has moved on from Bains town free tax zone and no VAT on electricity, water and medical.

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banker 4 months ago

Umm someone tell the PM that duty-free shopping is so 1990. The jobs that it creates are minimum wage service jobs. What Freeport needs are knowledge industries. Tired of catching crumbs that fall from the table of rich folks. Let's make our own luck. Let's make our own money. Let anyone who wants to start a technology business in Freeport to come for free. Make them welcome. Let them go nuts and create better-paying jobs than tourism and shopping.

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SP 4 months ago

To make the island of Grand Bahama a renowned duty-free shopping centre for residents and millions of visitors from around the world is a gross understatement!

Why just stop at Freeport?

The Bahamas proximity between North America, the Caribbean, and South America coupled with Freeport container terminal creates the "perfect storm location" for the entire Bahamas as a primary location for an international duty-free shopping centre.

THE Almighty True God Jehovah has already given us all we need to be the shopping mecca of the hemisphere!

We have had everything except a government with foresight and enough common sense to see that the Bahamas could very easily rival Panamas to become the "go-to" country for shopping for Commonwealth countries as well as North Americans!

This coupled with the opportunity to develop the Bahamas as an international air hub for people transiting Europe, North and South America is absolutely staggering and VERY easily accomplished.

Freeport is a basket case and you are on the right track PM Minnis, but you must think NATIONALLY to realize maximum benefit.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Comrades! Nothing more painful reminder Freeport's racist history than to have a cabinet made up in the majority with Negros - aiding and abetting and being an accessory to resurrect Freeport's racist ugly past.......What's next.......take the old gates out the Port's warehouse that once restricted the native Negroes from crossing over from West End into Freeport after dark - unless they could provide proof mainly domestic employment. {You don't have make this up}. Have red shirts cabinet ministers - forgotten all about the Port Authority's German Sheppard Guard Dogs?

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kkphilli4 4 months ago

The majority of tourists coming to Freeport on The Celebration and Balearia head straight to Port Lucaya. They are told at the port, they can buy souvenirs and eat at restaurants. However, the one thing that they are desperately looking for is an experience and participation in our Bahamian culture. They want to feel and hear our culture. The Ministry of Tourism in partnership with the Ministry of Youth can immediately start providing jobs to talented young singers, dancers, bands to entertain at the Port Lucaya Square daily. I am even thinking of something similar in entertainment to the National Youth Choir and how they blend our culture with fantastic singing, costumes and great lively entertainment. It does not make sense to keep increasing the amount of airlines coming into Freeport or even Nassau if there is nothing to keep the tourists entertained. A happy tourist will tend to spend more. Studies show this to be true.

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banker 4 months ago

You mean something like the UBP did before independence when they actively promoted Ronnie Butler and King Eric Gibson to the tourists?

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OMG 4 months ago

" Duty free shopping " yes there are signs everywhere but this is another Bahamian dream world where you try and con the visitors that there really is a bargain to be had. Take liquor for example---cheaper in a high street shop in the states after tax than in a so called duty free liquor store here. People are after bargains and they are few and far between in the Bahamas. As for Bay street -one end full of tee shirt, jewellery and liquor shops and the other looking like Alepo on a good day. No music, very few if any places to relax and have a drink after 5.30, so why would a cruise ship passenger want to enjoy Bay Street.

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banker 4 months ago

And spend $20 on a plate of hummus and bread at the Athena Cafe, where you can get in the US for $5.

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ashley14 4 months ago

I remember when Freeport was the place to go. The Holiday Inn was a happening place. Somebody needs to do something. It's still beautiful but no one is there. Right now the tourists wouldn't even have a place to stay.

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The_Oracle 4 months ago

Another historical falsehood Tal, the security gate a the western border of Freeport was a Customs checkpoint, to prevent Duty Free Materials "escaping" the confines of the Port area. (put in place to curtail what was happening often) Be aware the "Victor" writes (or re-writes) history to suit their purposes, something the PLP has done much of. Duty Free Shopping is nonsense, in that the rest of the world has far greater purchasing power than the Bahamas, Tax advantages, not just tax exemptions and online shopping with same day delivery. Gone are the fine linens,(from England) Watches (from Switzerland) liquors (from everywhere EXCEPT here).
Hate to say it but seems we're in for more of the same lame lack of competence, but perhaps without the wholesale tiefing.

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banker 4 months ago

Tal is always re-writing facts to suit an alternative revisionist history of the criminal gang that ran the Bahamas at independence.

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sheeprunner12 4 months ago

There is a shopping mall in China that is as big as New Providence ........... is this what Minnis wants to reproduce in Grand Bahama????? ........... We already have the Chinese Bahamar white elephant project ........... Who is going to demand that that ugly thing be imploded???

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Comrades! The selling numbers is the one and only most profitable business operating in Freeport.Extremely low operational overhead - high by the minute daily profits off the suckers!

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The_Oracle 4 months ago

On that you are right Tal, a scam perpetrated by Bahamians, against Bahamians. And you're worried about a fictional gate? Let's face it, apparently Bahamians either have no vision, or have had any vision they may have had beaten out of them or stopped/prevented by none other than their own so called leadership. No one screws a Bahamian better than a Bahamian. Add to that the right to avoid bills and not live up to obligations across the board........

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ohdrap4 4 months ago

ever since amazon, there is no need for duty free shopping.

you can get anything online. with 20% duty on clothing i can get tailored clothing delivered to me for 60% of what a pret-a-porte suit costs in the local mall or 80% of what i can get in nordstrom, and then i have to pay for a plane ticket. that is right, tailored-- not outlet mall crap..

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banker 4 months ago

Right ON!!!! My Bloomberg screen is full of retailers and mega retail conglomerates that are dying because of online shopping.

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killemwitdakno 4 months ago

Prohibition history in 8 mile rock. The locatmotove machine. NASA flight test. Army base.

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birdiestrachan 4 months ago

The gates at the beach were put there for tax evasion?? Freeport was not built with Bahamians in mind. No matter how Freeport may prosper if Bahamians do not benefit it is in vain.

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The_Oracle 4 months ago

More for theft prevention, of Tax free materials being removed from the Port Area. No, Freeport was not built with Bahamians in mind, true enough, however who, Bahamians or foreigner alike builds anything but for themselves or their profit and benefit? In that there is no difference between Bahamian or foreigner! Especially Pindling. Who you think taught all those who have come after him and his crew? Name me one selfless profitless action by any of them?

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ThisIsOurs 4 months ago

The duty free thing is just the headline. The article lists other proposals. Unless they can get prices for quality goods and services cheaper than Florida it means nothing, just a catchy phrase. The other stuff he speaks about is more interesting

"my government is committed to completing the National Museum of the Bahamas for the benefit of Bahamians primarily, but also as a heritage experience for tourists. ....the creation of a native food market in the Over-the-Hill community, the construction of a maritime museum at the Lowell J Mortimer Maritime Institute and the development of heritage and eco-tours throughout the country through the use of signage, on par with the Blue Plaque system used in the United Kingdom."

More than anything tourists are looking for experiences, clean, attractive, relaxing environments and good food, if they purchase local products at all they are looking for authentic items that depict the culture. Half the food served at places like Arawak cay is too greasy and too starchy. There's a lot that could be improved.

Hopefully they get it right. This master plan could have been "planned" in opposition. Pulling for you Dr Minnis, but out the gate I'm disappointed.

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BMW 4 months ago

Doc you have got to tell hutchison wampoa they have a decision to make, really a very simple one! You have one week to decide if you are going to open the hotels, if not you must sell!! No long drawn out meetings or drama. Open them or sell.
As for port lucaya, why in gods name was it sold without the docks/ marina? This is another decision that needs to be made. You, the owner of the docka/marina bring it up to par or sell at fair market price! Decisions must be made!!!!!!!!!!!! No longer the need for talk. Decisions please.

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FreeportFreddy 4 months ago

I am with BMW

Go one better and impose tax/penalties on their (Hutchison's) other businesses for each day the hotels remain shut.

They were given tax concessions and or incentives to own the hotels....time to get that back if they won't open or sell the hotels.

OPEN THEM ASAP!!!

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gbgal 4 months ago

We all yearn for the good ole days of Freeport! Those days won't come back so look at present and try to forecast the future based on what is happening now. How can we get GB into participating in the technology boom, for example? Open the borders? Provide enticing incentives for investors? Do we know if any of these companies want to come here? What does it take? We have land, infrastructure, some trained and outstanding Bahamian personnel here and abroad...proximity to lucrative markets...surely there is a place for us in the world of commerce etc. We have to find our niche! Other places are welcoming investors, let's get in the market too. Otherwise, we will be drawing straws for turning off the lights!

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VDSheep 3 months ago

Legislation ought to be made up to – make all of Grand Bahama a Freeport Island – similar to the Hong Kong model.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months ago

What did a free port do for Freeport? Not the solution. Tourists come for unique rich local experiences, the duty free purchase is secondary and more than likely even with duty free they can purchase cheaper in the US.

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