Family Island Development Key to Growth of Tourism Industry

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Delegates at the Local Government Leadership Conference listen as Consultant and former executive at the Ministry of Tourism Angela Cleare talks about the Family Islands and the tourism industry Tuesday, October 30 at the Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino.  (BIS photo/Kristaan Ingraham)
By: Llonella Gilbert

NASSAU, Bahamas – The future growth of the tourism industry for The Bahamas rests in the development of the Family Islands and they must offer services that encourage tourists to return time and time again, said Consultant to the Ministry of Tourism Ms. Angela Cleare.

During a session at the Local Government Leadership Conference the former Ministry of Tourism executive pointed out that the Family Islands represent 4772 square miles or 87 per cent of the total Bahamas land area. Ms. Clare noted that the Family Islands also have over 80 per cent of The Bahamas’ biodiversity as well as a rich heritage.

She said the Family Islands have a population of 45,785 (17 per cent of the total population of The Bahamas) and are sparsely developed with opportunity for proper planning.

Noting statistics for visitors arrivals, Ms. Cleare said there were 4,730.607 visitors to The Bahamas in 2006.  New Providence received 2,729,881; the Family Islands 1,354,031 and Grand Bahama 646,695.

In 2005, visitor expenditure in The Bahamas totalled $2,071,814,712.  In New Providence it totalled $1,481,851,240   (70%); $340,040,987 (17.5%) in the Family Islands and $249,922,485 (12.5%) in Grand Bahama.

But when it comes to repeat visitors, Ms. Cleare noted that the Family Islands lead the way.  While 54 per cent of visitors said they would return after visiting New Providence, and 52 per cent said they would come again after visiting Grand Bahama, the statistic for the Family Islands was 69 per cent.

Ms. Cleare said the complements from tourists about the Family Islands include: the people, scenery, beaches, sports and the sea/water.

She explained that the Family Islands have many assets, indicating that a growing number of internationally known celebrities are purchasing second homes and businesses and frequenting the Bahamas.

“Our climate, marine advantages, diversity and effective Film Commission make filming in The Bahamas attractive,” Ms. Cleare noted.

“Our Islands are among the most pristine in the world and the Islands of The Bahamas are still generally regarded as safe and friendly place.”

Ms. Cleare explained that a threat to the industry is the importing of too many tourism products, which she said is leading to a high leakage of valuable foreign exchange. She also pointed to problems of over-fishing, poaching and unsustainable practices that are depleting marine resources.

Ms. Cleare affirmed that Minister of Tourism the Hon. Neko Grant and Tourism Director General Vernice Walkine have several priorities concerning the Family Islands.

Those priorities involve improving the visitor experience and increasing linkages, developing heritage tourism and ensuring maintenance and litter control responsibility of local government is carried out.

And Ms. Cleare said there is a strong promotional team working in the Ministry of Tourism and other agencies to put the individual islands on the map.