Cruise spend ‘antibiotics’ set for December launch


Ian Ferguson

• Incubation Centre just needs ‘sign on dotted line’

• To address ‘plethora of complaints’ about product

• Mural campaign targeted at ‘east of downtown’


Tribune Business Editor


The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch the “antibiotics” that will help cure low cruise visitor spend in downtown Nassau by December 1, a top tourism executive disclosed yesterday.

Ian Ferguson, the Tourism Development Corporation’s chief, told Tribune Business it was “working quite aggressively” to make the promised Incubation Centre a reality and had progressed to the stage where “we need to pretty much just sign on the dotted line”.

Revealing that a location has been identified, and lease agreement drawn up, he added that it will play a key role in efforts to revive the eastern section of downtown Nassau which has sunk into what urban planners refer to as a ‘twilight zone’ full of dilapidated, abandoned properties with minimal commercial activities and the draw/attraction for tourists virtually non-existent.

Pledging that it is “not another flea market or straw market”, Mr Ferguson told this newspaper that the Incubation Centre will seek to fill and solve multiple gaps in the Bahamian tourism product. Providing a direct store front on to Bay Street, one focus will be the revival of authentic Bahamian handcrafted products.

A tour/excursion kiosk and registration desk will also be provided so that visitors can be directed to activities of their choice so they can “touch and feel The Bahamas”, with the facility also aiming to provide a gateway to interactive experiences where tourists “take in the sights, sounds and food” this nation offers - even to the point of making their own products, such as craft beer or jewellery.

Confirming that the goal is also to “shore up” micro, small and medium-sized (MSME) Bahamian-owned businesses in the tourism sector, Mr Ferguson said 18 entrepreneurs will have the chance to compete for space in the Incubation Centre during its initial launch phase.

Describing the concept as akin to the shared co-working space of an Incudesk, he told Tribune Business: “The Incubation Centre is really our way to diversify the tourism product for the 20,000-plus visitors traversing downtown daily from the cruise ships.

“The [per capita visitor] spend is the lowest compared to most of the destinations that cruise passengers visit. The average spend is just over $80, and it’s been there for some time, although some go as high as $120 or $150. We know there’s been lots of complaints about a lack of things downtown; a lack of shopping options, a lack of authenticity in the product. There’s a plethora of issues that have been levelled against us.”

Mr Ferguson continued: “I think this will bring amazing, great success. One is being able to really produce the kind of experience our customers have been urging, especially our cruise passengers. We’ve been hearing a whole lot from the cruise lines with regard to the issues they have with our product. I would say this is the antibiotics for what our country has.

“The Incubation Centre is really an attempt to revive the east of downtown. That’s one of the things we’re working on quite aggressively. Our deadline is that we want to cut the ribbon probably by December 1. We have identified the space, the lease agreements are all ready. We have all the renderings. We have all the goods; we just need to pretty much sign on the dotted line.”

Revealing that the Incubation Centre will be rolled-out via a phased approach, with access to funding required at every stage, Mr Ferguson said the focus on developing authentic Bahamian-made handcrafted products is “not another flea market, it’s not another straw market”.

Instead, he explained that the effort is intended to revive traditional Bahamian cottage industries by providing a storefront for artisans that looks out on to Bay Street. Other components include the tour/excursion kiosk and registration desk, which will direct visitors to the experience of their choosing.

This, Mr Ferguson said, could be tours of historical churches and other landmarks in Nassau; “tours that tell the story of The Bahamas from the grave”; and, with the Government’s emphasis on developing the ocean-based ‘blue economy’ and its environmentally-conscious ‘green’ equivalent, a variety of land and water-based excursions. 

Apart from “getting people to touch and feel The Bahamas”, the Tourism Development Corporation chief added that developing “sartorial-style experiences” for tourists to partake in, where they “sip and taste” or receive/make a Junkanoo head piece, are another element of the Incubation Centre’s focus.

Mr Ferguson added that it could involve “anything where the tourist can sit and experience, taking in the sights, sounds and food, and having a very authentic experience”. Using scales to make jewellery, or making craft beer, maybe included among such activities.

And the Corporation’s plans to enhance downtown Nassau will not halt there. “Attached to the Incubation Centre is our mural project,” Mr Ferguson told Tribune Business. “We’re creating a number of murals in downtown Nassau east of the cruise port and Bay Street where we’re trying to drive traffic in that direction. Right now it’s not aesthetically pleasing so it’s something that we have to address in terms of how it looks.”

Murals inspired by Junkanoo, Bahamian history and the ocean are among the designs that will likely feature, although he added: “We’re not limiting the muralists right now. They’re coming back to us with concepts for various buildings. We’re getting ready to probably have a big launch around this.

“I feel very confident about this. We’ve been talking to a number of people regarding funding a number of major projects we have, 19 of them. The Corporation’s focus is national development, so that is in hand with product development, product enhancement and a product diversification focus. 

“Then there’s the business development focus. We are mandated to ensure businesses in the hospitality industry, MSMEs, become more economically viable. They are the Bahamian-owned businesses, they are the ones that bolster the local economy, so we have to be a little more intent in how they are shored up to do business.”

Mr Ferguson said the Tourism Development Corporation’s “third priority” is fostering and strengthening linkages between tourism and other sectors of the Bahamian economy, principally with agriculture and creative industries such as the performing and visual arts plus entertainment.

“The goal is to create legislation to ensure persons doing business in The Bahamas are more inclined to, more incentivised, to buy local,” he affirmed. “It’s also creating business opportunities so that when we sit with partners, sit with suppliers, we try to iron out the kinks as to why they have not engaged.

“Despite knowing that we have four Okra farmers in The Bahamas, able to produce a quality product for all resorts in the desired quantity, why do we keep importing it? It doesn’t make sense.”


ThisIsOurs 1 year, 7 months ago

I hope it works but this seems bass ackwards.

When they signed away downtown "experience" lock stock and barrel to the cruise port I said it was a VERY bad idea. First and Foremost any junkanoo museum should been as far away from downtown as possible. encourage the tourists to move through the city. Now the grand plan is to recreate what the cruise port has already been given permission to do right next to the cruise port??? That's the secret plan?

Well I guess we dont know the full details yet so hopefully theyll surprise us with ingenuity


Flyingfish 1 year, 7 months ago

Muddo sick, these idiots don't realize that the eastern part of Bay street is abandoned because there is no demand for anymore commercial properties. It should be redeveloped into mixed use properties with stores and residences. That way you induce the demand for commercial by having people live nearby. The reason it became a dump in the first place was because Bahamians stopped living downtown ---> Bahamian's stopped shopping downtown---> The only other industry of cargo and maritime management was moved from the area.


RumRunnin 1 year, 7 months ago

Nassau needs a long-term comprehensive plan that will cover a number of issues, including economic development.

According to the IDB, 28 cruise passengers spend the equivalent of 1 stop-over visitor. http://www.tribune242.com/news/2021/m..." rel="nofollow">http://www.tribune242.com/news/2021/m...

A previous article mentioned since 2013, most cruise passengers (i.e. the ones that actually get off the ship!) do not spend more that $100. What kind of authentic products can they afford for that amount? Conch salad?

Let’s be smart and look at other opportunities. The cruise ship interest should not be driving the conversation about our national development.


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