02 DEC 2013: It’s almost like meeting the prime minister except some might argue even better, since the portfolio covers tourism. For a Caribbean destination like The Bahamas in which tourism is the number one GDP (try 60 percent) meeting the tourism minister is right up there.


The Honourable Obediah “Obie” Hercules Wilchcombe was certainly demonstrating herculean strengths during an appreciation lunch atop the Manulife Centre’s swanky Panorama Lounge last week. He met with trade media covered a wide territory of new developments taking place across the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and gave a big thanks to valuable Canadian partners, friends in the industry, media and Paul Strachan, Bahamas Tourism Office Director in Canada and his “All Star” team.

Now here’s what agents need to know.

A new island nation


“We had done that with the hands, the hearts, sweat and tears of ordinary Bahamian men and women,” starts Mr. Wilchcombe recounting the moment of independence as a new country only 40 years ago. It was nice to hear how significant Canada’s role was in its early years. Did you know the first office of the ministry of tourism was established in Canada 40 years ago?

A resilient nation

World events certainly have created challenges for The Bahamas. The tourism minister listed 9-11, the hurricanes and of course the “greatest recession of all time” but added The Bahamas is now preparing for its next phase. “We are ensuring all the islands in Bahamas are included.”

Sunwing and Grand Bahama

Life just got rosier for those sun-starved clients who dreamed of The Bahamas but due to no lifts in their region it was a no-go. That’s over. Sunwing managed a huge coup by opening six hubs across the country with weekly seasonal direct flights to Grand Bahama starting on January 16.

Cities include Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Edmonton to Freeport, Grand Bahama along with year round flights from Toronto. An easy sun getaway for YYZ clients, they can be sipping bubbly on a champagne flight, hit the greens or indulge in serious sun worshipping in 3.5 hours.

Seasonal destination? Not so much


The minister knows our peak season is winter but he hopes to change that and if he has his way you’ll hear about The Bahamas year-round. “I do have difficulty with seasonal advertisements. I want to change that. I believe that people need to know about (us) year round.”

It’s better in the Bahamas


Get ready for a new ad campaign to hit the airwaves (radio and TV) plus the heaviest commuter spots in the country.

Pattison Outdoor Advertising and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) have launched the transit system’s first fully wrapped Toronto Rocket Super Train that will run exclusively on the Yonge-University-Spadina line. The ad campaign runs now until next February with additional transit advertising in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

“We have to use more radio, more TV, more billboards and if we have to use more trains and buses we aren’t going to allow you to forget that we have a place called The Bahamas.”

Nassau

During my recent visit you couldn’t help but see the massive Cable Beach redevelopment with the estimated $3.5 billion Baha Mar project in the works. It’s been hailed as the largest single-phase hospitality investment in the Caribbean and will feature hotels like Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, Mondrian and Grand Hyatt all anchored by the huge centerpiece, the Baha Mar Casino & Hotel. Sprawling on 1,000 acres with over 3,000 feet of oceanfront the complex will also include private residences, gaming, shopping, entertainment and natural attractions..

There will be an 18-hole 72 par Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course plus a huge convention centre ideal for the lucrative meetings and incentive market. Sales sheets describe the Baha Mar convention facilities as ‘a new mecca of leisure and business tourism.’

The former Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort will get two name changes starting with the first one known as Melia Nassau Beach Resort on Dec. 1. Watch for a cross brand “You Say Flamingo, I say Flamenco” opening promotion. The 694-room resort will undergo renovations with a completion date scheduled for December 2014 and will be renamed Melia at Baha Mar in time for the opening of the Baha Mar next year. The company reports there will be no interruption to the guest experience during the refurbishments.

Other Bahamas perks:

⋅ No need to ever feel beach bored. The Islands of the Bahamas has 365 beaches – one for each day of the year.

⋅ Find championship golf courses on Grand Bahama Island, Nassau/Paradise Island, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma.

⋅ Outdoor nature types like to kayak, hike, bird watch and horseback ride available at most of The Islands of the Bahamas.

⋅ Find some of the best waters for deep sea fishing, bone fishing and sailing.

⋅ Want clients to tour with a local? Sign up for the popular program People-To-People matching visitors with resident volunteers.

⋅ So many festivals – the biggest highly sought after is the upcoming annual Junkanoo. This street parade has hundreds of costumed groups showing the island rhythms. The dates: December 26 (Boxing Day) and January 1 (New Years Day).





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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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