By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press
Despite all the expert gibberish vented on talk shows by surrogates and followers of those opposed to the government, for the foreseeable future our economic success is attached unequivocally to tourism and FDIs. This is not to say we ought not to continuously exert every effort to create other pillars for our economy. But in doing so, it would be to our peril if we diss what got us to where we are.
As the people of The Bahamas observe the realities facing our country and monitor developments taking place in the international arena, we must wonder what is next for our small island nation. After all, how much longer can we continue with an economy that depends almost solely on tourism, international business and offshore financial activities?
Undeniably, these areas of focus are by no means misdirected. The real problems for our economy have to do with the way we plan and execute our developmental goals. Take, for example, the case of tourism and one can easily figure out that our difficulties are twofold: first, tourism is performing relatively well but the lack of more stringent backward and forward linkages between this critical industry and other key sectors of our economy, such as agriculture and manufacturing, is glaring.
The net result is that the expansion in activities in tourism is not accompanied by growth in other sectors of our economy.
Second, because tourism is a demand-driven industry, we have to continuously re-engineer our activities to ensure that we maintain our competitiveness edge in all the things we do and that is a more difficult challenge than one can imagine given the limited financial resources available for injection into product enhancement and marketing, just to identify two factors of importance to our tourism.
With those caveats in mind, how then do we continue to ensure, first, further increases in value added in tourism; and, secondly, that this vital industry becomes a real engine of our growth and development? The answer has to be this: Change.
We have to reconfigure the way we do things, how we strategise, how we manage the growth in this industry, how we target markets, and how we allocate financial and other resources to fulfil our mandates for the continued transformation of tourism. Put differently, we need a new normal as far as the development of tourism is concerned to make this crucial industry a sustainable area of economic activity for our country.
Logic would dictate, therefore, that to get to the “mountain top” and remain there, many bits and pieces must fall in place and rather quickly if I may say so. These include, inter alia:
(1) Visionary industry leaders who not only understand the intricacies of our tourism industry and economy but who also have the ideas and drive to create a new direction to lead our country in the contemporary era. If, as leaders, we recognise that existing frameworks are not working as envisaged, then, have the guts to change the system. Period!
(2) Open the eyes of our people to the new dynamics in the tourism industry and put in place relevant strategies to ensure that we give ourselves a more than 50/50 chance of survival in a sustained manner.
(3) Educate ourselves so that we would have a much clearer understanding of all of the intricacies associated with this dynamic and sometimes highly volatile industry as well as determine precisely how we can make tourism an area of innovation that redounds to greater benefits our people.
(4) Legislation that guarantees solid incentives to facilitate orderly growth of tourism. And, please, before any legislation passes let the people voice their opinions!
(5) Dedicate 2017 the year of services, featuring tourism, for that is the future of our economy!
Are we as a people willing and able to accept the above menu as one way forward for our future economic substance?