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Minister Issues Challenge: Develop ‘Projects Of Scale’

TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

• Larger attractions needed for cruise growth

• Tourism ‘banging heads on wall’ over issue

• Says ‘govt cannot solve these problems’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister has challenged Bahamian entrepreneurs to develop “projects of scale” that can accommodate hundreds of cruise ship passengers in similar manner to Atlantis.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that he and his officials have been “banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out” how The Bahamas can develop tours and excursions of sufficient size to cope with thousands of visitors set to arrive in Nassau when the industry resumes sailing from south Florida.

Arguing that the government cannot develop such businesses by itself, and can only act as a facilitator, Mr D’Aguilar said it was up to Bahamian business owners with the vision, experience and ability to raise the necessary capital to solve a long-standing problem.

He added that Atlantis’ success in becoming the leading shore excursion for cruise passengers pre-COVID-19 was partly due to its scale as its water-based theme park is able to accommodate several thousand passengers per day.

While many Bahamian entrepreneurs have developed successful tours, destinations and excursions that can cater to around 100 cruise passengers, Mr D’Aguilar said there simply were not enough of these to cope with the 12,000 passengers that controlling shareholder, Global Ports Holding, expects to come across Nassau Cruise Port’s wharves daily when its $250m upgrade is completed.

Speaking after Tribune Business revealed that 43 percent of cruise ship passengers coming off their vessel in Nassau spent less than $50 during their visit, and that 2019 per capita spending was lower than yields in 2013, Mr D’Aguilar said he was more focused on the 10.3 percent increase in total spending in the Bahamian capital to $325.78m that year.

He admitted, though, that “there’s a certain element of destination fatigue” with Nassau given that many cruise passengers have already visited the destination and believe there is nothing new for them to do.

While the investment being made by Global Ports Holding and (eventually) and Bahamian investors in the new cruise port will not automatically increase cruise passenger spending by itself, Mr D’Aguilar added that it should nevertheless act as a catalyst to entice more passengers off their vessel to explore Nassau.

“It’s up to our entrepreneurs, and through the Tourism Development Corporation they’re fighting like hell to come up with innovative and creative ideas for new things for people to do,” the minister added.

“But we need projects with scale. If, pre-COVID, someone built a project that can accommodate 50-100 people, that is good but you need a lot of businesses like that to take advantage of the volumes of cruise passengers that are coming.

“Atlantis was built to scale and can accommodate several thousands of people at their water park. That’s why they were able to enjoy a great deal of revenue from cruise passengers because they can deal with volume. The Pointe has built a water park, but not to a sufficient scale to deal with the volume of passengers coming off the ship,” Mr D’Aguilar said.

“We’ll always be grappling to deepen the spending and creating viable options for cruise ships coming to our port every day. We’ve not been able to solve these problems. The Government cannot solve these problems. This definitely requires the coming together of creative ideas, a place to do it and substantial funding and capital.”

The Ministry of Tourism’s own assessment of cruise passenger spending in Nassau/Paradise Island during 2019 showed that 53 percent of the $325.78m total, some $172.65m, was spent on activities, tours and excursions. 

This represented an 80 percent increase on the prior year’s $95.94m spend in this area, which moved it into the segment that attracted the majority of cruise passenger spending in the capital. The recipients of such spending were not identified, and it is likely that a substantial chunk in both years went to Atlantis.

Pointing to the forecast increase in cruise ships berthing in Nassau in 2022, provided the COVID-19 pandemic is largely over, Mr D’Aguilar reiterated: “There’s a lot to do to take advantage of this projected increase in cruise ship passengers.

“We need some projects with scale that can deal with 1,000 passengers, and that takes innovation, creativity and capital. It’s not something you’re going to develop overnight but that’s what we need. We probably need enough tours and excursions that can accommodate half the passengers arriving in Nassau. At the weekend we have 20,000 to 30,000.

“We’re already banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out how to create interesting, viable experiences for people to do. We’ve talked about this ad nauseam. This is only something the Government can encourage. The Government cannot get into these businesses,” he added.

“It’s quite telling that the most visited destination in The Bahamas is Atlantis because they built that project to scale and were able to take advantage of that to the point where even they had to slow it down due to concerns they were receiving from their hotel guests.”

Mr D’Aguilar implied that Baha Mar’s Baha Bay water park, which is set to open this summer, will similarly target cruise passengers as well as hotel guests given that the former category seem particularly attracted to such destinations.

Comments

concerned799 9 months, 3 weeks ago

  1. Ban Cruise Ships

  2. Banks and other investors will finance hotels since they will know a market demand is now guaranteed as people who wish to come to the Bahamas now must do so via hotel.

  3. Likely other places will follow, just like we'd be following Key West.

The rest will take care of itself. The "Bahamas" is the product, not commercial parks as such. People who want parks will go to Orlando or Las Vegas, that isn't what we have to offer and they will always have better parks and attractions eg. Disney World. We need to stop selling the Bahamas on the cheap to the cruise industry for $50 or so per person in spend. This is not rocket science.

PS. If Disney wants to build an on Nassau theme park with hotels, and rides and whatever else the government should say this is something it will negotiate, but its path to the Bahamas via cruise ships should be closed by government.

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The_Oracle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The barrier to Cruise ship tour offerings is the prohibitively high cost of their Liability insurance, which must be purchased from their in house insurance co. (captive $$ stream, 2 mil liability policy) and their insane onboard booking tour markup. Ya'll have yet to understand their business model. SEt up a mega shop and pay no rent, and worse get concessions. Ingraham made the first fatal mistake with allowing on board concessions to remain open in port. (casinos, bars, resturants, etc) They must've seen him coming a mile away. Want to reset the model? You are going to have to.

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whogothere 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Dionisio.dude. You are more lost than I could possibly have imagined...small focused tourism is what thrives...employs more people...garners more consumer spending and tax dollars... do you really want to franchise our nation? turn it into a experienced based theme park for the masses? McBahamas? Quality over quantity is always more enduring...stop banging your head you re losing valuable brain cells...

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tribanon 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It's all too clear D'Aguilar lacks both common sense and business sense. Operating a chain of public laundromats started by his father is about the most one should expect of him.

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tribanon 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Repost:

Michael Maura more than anyone else knows full well that the entire business model of the cruise ship industry is designed to capture every possible dollar that their ship passengers plan to spend on their cruise vacation. This puts the cruise ship operators/owners in direct competition with the countries visited by the behemoth ships. These monstrous floating hotels now have onboard every attraction, entertainment and eating/drinking facility imaginable.

It is impossible for land based establishments in countries like ours, with their much higher operating costs, to compete with what these gigantic ships now offer their passengers onboard. That's the simple harsh reality and why we must quickly transform our country to a desirable tourist destination for air arrival/hotel staying visitors, visiting yachtsman and guests arriving by private aircraft. These are the big spending tourists who will greatly benefit our economy and improve the lives of Bahamians, not only on New Providence but in the Family Islands as well.

For decades now the cruise ship operators/owners have been taking very unfair advantage of us and will continue doing so if we do not rein in their most corrupt relationship with our incompetent, weak and visionless politicians like Minnis and D'Aguilar. The Bahamas offers the cruise ship operators/owners a few priceless things that they and their passengers highly value but have been allowed by our incompetent and corrupt politicians to take for free. I'm talking about our crystal clear aquamarine waters, our beautiful islands and sandy beaches, and our heavenly skies and abundance of sunshine. Add to this our close geographic proximity to the US and it's no small wonder why we will always be a top destination for the mammoth cruise ships.

But we must immediately end giving our prized environment away for free. We therefore need to start charging the cruise ship companies a daily (yes, daily) passenger head tax of at least $50 and use the tax proceeds to develop and promote an environment conducive to much greater air arrival, land based tourism with stong linkages to new Bahamian owned attractions, shopping and entertainment establishments. This is a must if we are ever going to boost our economy and create decent paying private sector jobs. And the same head tax charged for sea passengers should also apply to air arrival tourists who stay at land-based hotels that are defined to have an 'all-inclusive' business model similar to that of the cruise ship companies.

We must also encourage our fellow Caribbean cruise ship destinations to adopt a stance towards the cruise ship industry similar to that which I am proposing for our own country.

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sheeprunner12 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I hope that the Tourism Minister is telling Global Ports & its new set of "home porters" that their predatory methods of starving the on-island side of the cruising industry should not be the MO for the new inter-island cruising trips ........ Will the cruise passengers be spending the usual $50 on trinkets when they go to Exuma, Long Island San Sal or Eleu/Briland etc???

We don't need any of that cheap NP brand of cruise visitors taking root in the Out Islands

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DWW 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I seem to remember someone who was trying to set up an excursion operation on PI very near the lighthouse...

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The_Oracle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Many countries have sand sea and sunshine, the two areas we need serious improvement in are Quality of service including cleanliness and Bahamian domestic investors. How the hell can we expect foreigners to buy in when we don't or are blocked from doing so, by our own damn Government?

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tribanon 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The point that the business model of these behemoth floating hotel owners is such that they will never allow us to compete with them on a level playing field for the tourist dollars in the pockets of their passengers clearly flew way over your head.

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