By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A $3m pirate-themed cruise attraction is targeting annual revenues of $1.5m after setting sail on a voyage inspired by its principal’s daughter.
Entrepreneur Tony Knowles said he was inspired to invest in the project by his physically-challenged daughter, aiming to create something that people with disabilities and of all ages could enjoy.
Operating Blackbeard’s Revenge under his company, Pirate’s Revenge, and employing 28 Bahamians, Mr Knowles said the vision for the attraction came to him from a pirate-themed cruise ship he recalled from 1995, when he was piloting helicopter charter services.
This, coupled with the realisation that his daughter could not participate in some activities with his family, resulted in the entrepreneur seeing the need to provide something for persons of all capabilities and ages on land, in the air and on water.
Mr Knowles said it took him and an “all Bahamian ship building crew” 16 months to convert the former mailboat, the Eleuthera Express, into the Blackbeard’s Revenge, with almost all materials sourced here in The Bahamas at a cost of just under $3m. He has set a revenue target of $1.5m a year.
Inspired by minister of tourism, Dionisio D’Aguilar, and his inaugural speech to Parliament on the lack of Bahamian-owned tour, excursions and attractions to deliver quality experiences for tourists and locals alike, Mr Knowles said this was the deciding factor that prompted him to move ahead.
The 140-foot long, 20 foot-wide Blackbeard’s Revenge, complete with gift shop and VIP lounge, can hold up to 300 persons. Mr Knowles said it is built for an interactive cruise and cultural experience, starting from daily morning voyages to sunset dinner trips for both tourists and locals, in addition to being available to play host to corporate and regular party events.
Mr Knowles said that prior to setting sail, obtaining worldwide jurisdiction liability insurance was an important hurdle to cross. He revealed it was a huge setback when local insurance companies were unable to provide him with the solution he needed. He eventually found MHG Insurance out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to provide $5m on coverage.
Mr Knowles said the boat explosion in Exuma in mid-2018, and the recent shark attack against a tourist off Rose island this year, had taught him the importance of insurance.
Speaking on behalf of Mr D’Aguilar, who was at Cabinet, the Ministry of Tourism’s general Manager for quality assurance, Kendal I Major, said the Ministry was prepared to promote the fact that there is more to see in The Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.
Mr Major said the Ministry is able to help entrepreneurs with promotion of their product or service, but warned that entrepreneurs need to first provide something authentically Bahamian.