Downtown Nassau tourism incubators expand to two


Tribune Business Reporter

THE DEPUTY Prime Minister yesterday said there will now be two tourism incubation centres in downtown Nassau because his ministry was unable to find a single location able to handle the demand from Bahamian entrepreneurs.

Chester Cooper, also minister for tourism, investments and aviation, speaking ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting said there will now be two such centres established, including “one building for authentically Bahamian goods. And there will be at least one other building that will help to support tour operators”.

“So, at the moment, we’re looking at two buildings and this is going to grow,” Mr Cooper added. “We anticipate that the vendors who become a part of this programme will enjoy a six-month rent free opportunity. We hope that they grow so rapidly that they outgrow the space. They move on, and new people come.

“So we’re going to monitor this as the case might be. If we find that the demand is so overwhelming for spaces for authentically Bahamian-made products and services, we are going to expand our reach in terms of access to additional buildings.

“But, right now, phase one will be two buildings - one for authentically Bahamian goods and services, and another space that supports tour developers and promoters that are going to create these types of authentic experiences that we’re trying to drive.”

The proposed incubation centres are seen as a potential catalyst for sparking innovation and entrepreneurial ventures by Bahamians in the tourism industry, as well as a way of linking Bahamian craft manufacturers with tourists who visit the downtown Nassau area.

Mr Cooper said: “We hope that the new [cruise] port that’s going to open at the end of May can be a catalyst to drive some of this development. We’re opening some incubation centres; we’re going to make sure that the store fronts are nice. So we’re going to do everything we can with immediacy to ensure that there’s some action.

“There’s some things that can be done quickly. We’ll do those things. Some things, that’s going to take a while. We’re going to ensure that during our administration we set this on a path for restoration, and that’s what we propose and that’s what we will do.”

Downtown Nassau’s entire redevelopment will require all stakeholders working together to co-operate. “I think there has to be public consultation in relation to the master plan development for Bay Street,” Mr Cooper said. “There have been some studies, etc.

“The property is owned privately by multiple individuals. All of them need to come into a room to help to determine some uniformity. The Government is encouraging residential, commercial condos, restaurants - any business that adds value to downtown Nassau - to create it into a place where we can be very proud.”

The demolition of derelict buildings is also moving apace, and Mr Cooper said the Government has devised a formula where owners either pay for the remediation of their properties or, in the event the Government has to demolish them, a “lien” will be imposed on the subject land should the owner wish to sell the site post-demolition.

“We’re committed to the restoration of Bay Street,” the deputy prime minister said. “We’re going to do what we have to do to ensure that the buildings that are not historical buildings, the buildings where the owners and the stakeholders show no interest in restoration, we are going to have those demolished.

“We anticipate that the cost of these demolitions is going to become part of a lien against these properties, so that in the event they are sold, the Government will collect in much the same way it collects taxes that have not been paid and are in arrears.”

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