The 13th annual Exuma Business Outlook conference is scheduled to take place on October 24 at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort, Georgetown.
Speakers include Pedro Rolle, president, Exuma Chamber of Commerce; John Rolle, governor, Central Bank of The Bahamas; Dave Smith, managing director, Bahamas Development Bank; Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle, director, National Insurance Board; Andre Knowles, chief commercial officer, BTC; Algernon Cargill, director of aviation, Ministry of Tourism; Patrick Dwyer, president, Farmers' Association; Chloe Burke, Airbnb's public policy associate for the Caribbean and Central America; Tarran Simms, sustainable tourism, Ministry of Tourism & Aviation; and Delmaro Duncombe, senior Aliv partner.
"We must appreciate that the way forward for the economies of the Family Islands lies in recognising the unique potential of each, and the factors that can spur the development of that potential," said Joan Albury, the TCL Group's president and creator of the seven-island Business Outlook Series.
"Exuma, with all its superb natural assets, is an economic sleeping giant that must be awakened in a sustainable, collaborative way. Local leaders we interviewed recently are all saying that the Ministry of Tourism's 'Bahamas is open for business' marketing campaign is working. Tourism is up, Airbnbs are growing, and Exuma enjoys excellent airlift.
"We all know that attractions such as the swimming pigs have won a lot of positive attention for our islands. We're told that the second home market is also bullish. With such promising business trends arising, this year's speakers will present on topics that highlight these new directions, pointing out Exuma's challenges and opportunities in this regard."
Ivan Ferguson, Exuma's island administrator, added: "Exuma has the potential to fill the void created by Abaco and Grand Bahama. Even in a traditionally low season we have recorded a slight increase in international and domestic visitors. There is also an uptick in construction.
Pedro Rolle, realtor and Exuma Chamber of Commerce president, said: "Interest in Exuma is as strong as it has ever been. Exuma has the real estate, natural beauty, flights - people love coming here.
"We are also now seeing people who would have gone to Abaco coming here. The marketing the Ministry of Tourism is doing - that The Bahamas is open - is working. Airbnbs are very busy. Real estate is our heritage. We are not taking advantage of what is ours. Bahamians need to invest."
Mrs Albury added: "It is important to identify challenges to growth as well. This is the pattern with all our Business Outlooks. All the speakers representing Exuma are agreed as to the challenges, with infrastructure problems topping the list.
"These include poor roads hampering over land travel, which makes it particularly difficult for visitors to travel at night to experience tourism product beyond their hotels. What is of particular concern, owing to the lack of training and growth in the local labour force, service quality is not on par with the excellence of Exuma's tourism resort properties, which are among the best internationally.
"Echoed also was the inadequacy of provisions for local government and underperforming communications, which is negatively impacting the ease of doing business. There is the need for electricity generation to match business expansion. However, it is promising that there has been a meeting between the IDB and BPL to discuss renewable energy for Exuma."
Those interested in attending the Exuma Business Outlook may register/contact: www.tclevents.com; Michelle McKenzie at The Ministry of Tourism via Telephone: 242-336-2430 or 242-336-2431. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Registrants can also contact Margaret Albury of The Counsellors in New Providence at: 242-322-7505 or e-mail email@example.com. To register online, visit tclevents.com.