By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
PROMOTING the development of small and medium-sized enterprises could help the Bahamas reduce the "leakage" of 85 cents from every tourist dollar earned, a hotel executive said yesterday.
Carlton Russell, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association's (BHTA) president, said the Tru Tru Bahamian Festival from February 3-4 provides an opportunity to highlight and support local vendors. Some 70 Bahamian vendors, including 20 food providers, will be present at this year's festival.
"The big thing here is how we reduce leakage, with 85 per cent of our tourism dollars going back out of the country," said Mr Russell. "We need to find ways to keep it here, and the way to do that is to develop our SMEs and encourage our vendors and manufacturers to bring their talents and skills to the forefront.
"This is going to be a long walk and not a quick fix. If we can make it a target to get somewhere around 65 per cent, that means job creation, SME development, more talent being at the table as well as training and education. There are a lot of implications and benefits to this."
Mr Russell added: "We wanted to take small steps and build the festival phase by phase. The first year we attracted a little short of 1,000 people. We were just getting our feet wet, and really understanding the festival side of the business.
"The second year grew enormously. We were able to attract somewhere around 4,500 guests at the second event and, of course, we're oversold with vendors. We had a request from our sponsors and patrons to do a two-day event this year.
"We will see how it goes. Festivals of this nature take approximately 10 years to build; the research shows that. We want to ensure that it promotes that sense of culture. I would say over time it's going to become a sold-out festival."
The third annual Tru Tru Festival will again be held at the John Watling's Distillery. Ellison 'Tommy' Thompson, deputy director-general of tourism,
Ellison 'Tommy' Thompson, deputy director-general of tourism, said a shuttle service will be provided from the cruise port for visitors ,and hotels will encourage their guests to go to the festival.
"A part of the reason the Ministry of Tourism wanted to get involved was to create leakages between art, culture and agriculture with the tourism product, because we want to be able to keep more money in the country. We also want to see festivals throughout the Bahamas and not just Nassau. In the future we want to bring down travel writers, bloggers and bloggers to experience the festival," he said.