'Be more creative to reach cruise ship market'


Tribune Staff Reporter


TOURISM Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar yesterday called for Bahamian entrepreneurs to be more "creative" and "aggressive" at penetrating the cruise ship visitor market.

Mr D'Aguilar noted cruise visitors represent 75 percent of the annual foreign visitors to this country, but "only represent 11 per cent of the spend".

In this vein, the Bahamas Development Bank, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, is hosting a two-day workshop to answer the question 'How can we make more money in the business of tourism today?'

The workshop, entitled 'Tourist Money Never Done,' will be geared toward entrepreneurs interested in the tourism industry. It will be held September 13-14 at the British Colonial Hilton.

The initiative was announced yesterday at a press conference held at the BDB. Mr D'Aguilar said this will be the first in a series of workshops.

He added entrepreneurs are expected to have "credible" ideas and said the BDB will provide up to $50,000 for participants, "depending on the project and its potential".

"This workshop is the first in a series of workshops that we plan to eventually take to the other islands, intended to create jobs and improve the quality of life throughout the islands," Mr D'Aguilar said.

"This initiative speaks to the complexity of tourism. While we encourage investment, we are also creating linkages to other economic sectors that will provide greater economic returns for all.

"A people centred approach, intended to inspire local entrepreneurs to think about getting involved in the (tourism) business, offering related products and services to increase tourism spend and help to distribute the wealth."

Architect and attractions consultant Patrick Rahming is designing the content of the workshop. He will be supported by Brendan Foulkes, a hospitality lecturer at the University of The Bahamas, and business consultant Quintin Curry.

"The content of workshop is geared towards capturing the imagination of budding entrepreneurs, who already have an inkling to start a tourism-oriented business and are seeking guidance and funding," Mr D'Aguilar said.

"Up to $50,000 will be available from the (BDB) for participants, depending on the project and its potential."

Mr D'Aguilar noted cruise stopover visitors are the market with the "greatest potential right now".

He said of the 6.3 million foreign visitors who visit The Bahamas annually, 75 percent are cruise passengers, however they spend little in the country.

"So that tells me right off the top that all these cruise passengers are coming to The Bahamas, the Ministry of Tourism is doing a great job of attracting them here, and we are doing a poor job of increasing the spend from those foreign visitors when they get here.

"We need Bahamian entrepreneurs to step forward, we need (them) to be creative, we need them to be aggressive at exploiting this opportunity that the Ministry of Tourism has created."

He added he's "disappointed" by the lack of innovative tours and activities for visitors to do.

"So I think that there's great opportunities, and as a result I'm delighted that this workshop is being started to allow Bahamians to step forward and say 'how do I get involved?' 'How do I take this idea of mine, flesh it out, receive funding?

"And I want to warn Bahamians," Mr D'Aguilar continued. "Don't come down here thinking someone that is going to write a cheque on a five-minute presentation. You have to put forth a credible idea. You have to come up with a business plan, you have to run your financials. It has to be credible. Don't come down here on a pipe dream and vagueness.

"This is a very specific business, this is something that we want to help you do, and this is what we are here to do. To help you flesh that out."

Mr D'Aguilar added the ministry will facilitate entrepreneurs, such as by helping them get directly in contact with cruise companies.

However, when asked if the ministry is looking for business ideas geared solely towards cruise visitors, he said: "No, that's not true. I'm just saying that that is the greatest potential right now.

"If you look at the spend of a cruise passenger, it's $70, $80. If you look at St Martin, it's $191. What are we missing? What is it that we're not doing to capture more of that tourism spend?"

Mr D'Aguilar also called for entrepreneurs to market their businesses online.

When asked about the forecast for the winter tourism season, Mr D'Aguilar said: "At least 10-11 percent up on last year. That's what our projections are. So we are looking for a very robust Christmas….and we've had a very good first half of the year."

Persons interested in the workshop are asked to email brahaming@bahamas.com or call 302-2000.