|Exuma officials look to boost island’s revenue|
Guardian Business Reporter
Published: Aug 20, 2012
GEORGETOWN, Exuma – Tourism officials on Exuma are confident that it can become one of the highest revenue generating islands and be a substantial contributor to the economy.
“In the past, Exuma has been the number three generator of revenue for the national economy behind Family Islands like Grand Bahama and Abaco. While I can’t say what the exact percentage of Exuma’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is nowadays, we are very hopeful and optimistic that Exuma is going to get back to where it used to be,” according to Petherina Hanna, general manager at Exuma’s tourism office.
She revealed to Guardian Business that while Exuma has prospered for the most part over the last decade, the island also suffered from the global financial crisis.
“Over the past 10 years, Exuma has had an extremely good boost. However, in the last three years, like the rest of the world, we have been hit by the global financial recession. We are now coming back from that and I am very happy to have these niche markets like these on the island, like this weekend’s fly in program. We are beginning a boost in the island’s tourism product,” Hanna explained.
Hanna, along with other tourism stakeholders in Exuma, hosted a delegation of more than 30 Florida-based aviation professionals, as they seek to generate more business into that island’s market.
She pointed out that tapping into niche markets like those in the aviation profession provides a unique opportunity for the entire island to benefit from the moment they decide to fly their private aircrafts into The Bahamas.
“The thing about niche markets like these is that the economic benefit trickles down from the porter at the airport, the bus driver, waitresses and waiters, ferry boat operators, hoteliers and rental cars. The economic benefit from events like these trickles down into the various sectors of the economy. So these are the kind of niche markets that we are hoping that the Ministry of Tourism will embark on for Family Islands like Exuma,” Hanna noted.
While Exuma is beginning to see a turnaround in its economy, she shared with Guardian Business that one of the major challenges that remains for Exuma as a destination is the high cost of airfare.
“Whenever we conduct surveys among our guests, the biggest complaint is that the cost is too high. People want to come to Exuma and other islands like Exuma but it’s too expensive to get here. Another challenge with airlines is that they may get as far as Ft. Lauderdale or as far as Nassau but then they have to overnight in Nassau, which is an additional cost that they didn’t budget for,” Hanna said.
As the island enters its slow period, Exuma’s senior tourism official confirmed to Guardian Business that business tends to pick up again November. Meanwhile, hoteliers and other stakeholders used this time to renovate their properties and brainstorm new ideas to generate more business into the island.
She further noted that the ministry is embarking upon marketing initiatives year round to ensure that the island of Exuma has a booming and diversified economy.
“The organization as a whole is working on marketing the tourism product through the website myoutislands.com. It’s an initiative where a visitor from any part of the world that comes to The Bahamas, and can pay their way as far as Nassau, the Ministry of Tourism will pay their way to any Out Island that they choose to go to. Locally, there are constantly events that we host, one of them being our upcoming Fishy Fest in another three weeks. We work along with tourism stakeholders to ensure that everyone gets some of the action,” Hanna added.