Alice Town, Bimini: The Tourism Development Corporation(TDC) in conjunction with its strategic partners the University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) staged a two-day Community Based Tourism Workshop at the Bimini Big Game for residents of Bimini with aspirations of running their own tourism-related businesses to take full advantage of the influx of cruise visitors to Bimini with the first Virgin Voyages Cruise set for the middle of March. The workshop educated would-be entrepreneurs who had existing tourism businesses on the island wishing to expand or start new businesses on the opportunities that exist to expose the history, culture and marine activities to visitors in a sustainable way, thereby increasing the economic impact from Tourism for Bimini.
Dr. Vikneswaran Nair, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at UB, conducted the workshop and brought his vast experience in this field from Asia highlighting how the key ingredients of conservation of the environment and the connection of historical traditions and culture can bring about product sustainability so that future generations will come to enjoy what we enjoy today. “If we are not mindful of the environment and preserve not only the physical but also the traditions, history and culture we will not be conducting tourism in a sustainable way. The key is to find that balance so that we ensure that future generations will continue to uphold what is uniquely Bahamian and exposing that to visitors who increasingly want authentic and memorable experiences in addition to the sun, sand and sea,” he stated.
Bimini will receive some 2,700 adult visitors each time the new Virgin Voyages cruise ship, the Scarlet Lady, docks at the recently extended pier, positioning north Bimini in particular, as an island cruise port, which needed to be readied for such an opportunity for economic growth. The two-day, Community-based Tourism workshop, commenced the process of ensuring that local persons would embrace this opportunity for self-employment through a small business venture that will show the visitor how we live, where we came from and how we genuinely enjoy life in Bimini, inviting the visitor to participate in our way of life. The SBDC announced that it intends to have a presence in Bimini in order to assist those who wish to take advantage of the Government’s initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship in all the Islands of The Bahamas.
“ We are here to hold your hand as your bring your vision and business ideas to life or expand to meet the new demand for tourism products and services and benefit from the Access Accelerator initiatives to get your business to market as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Winston Rolle, Sr. Business Advisor at SBDC, who encouraged the more than thirty attendees of the workshop to register with the SBDC and access the services offered for start-ups, especially in the Family Islands.
The imminent arrival of the larger number of visitors to Bimini who are seeking to be visitors with minimal impact on the environment but to also participate in experiences that will connect with the local community and bringing the authenticity that is now demanded by them, has also inspired Virgin Voyages to offer entrepreneurship training through the Branson School of Entrepreneurship which is set to take place on March 13 and 14th in Bimini. CEO of the Tourism Development Corporation, Janet Johnson said that local persons with aspirations of opening a tourism-related business need to avail themselves of the numerous training sessions to be offered. ‘Virgin Voyages, as good corporate citizens, are bringing this entrepreneurship training as a complement to the Community-Based Tourism Workshop because they want to see Bimini succeed as a destination and provide experiences that will exceed their customers’ expectations. We are working closely with them not only for the training that the Branson School of Entrepreneurship offers but also for the Tourism Innovation Centre that will open shortly in the new Government complex in Bimini, giving those persons who do not have access to computers or an office space as yet, a place to come to use the computers in the center, discuss ideas and seek advice for their business venture,” she said. “ The Community-based Tourism Workshop gave the participants ideas about how the community can get involved in tourism, and the training offered by the Branson Business Bootcamp will put the emphasis on what it takes to be an entrepreneur and bring those business opportunities to reality.”
Participants at the two-day Community-based Tourism Workshop left exuberant and excited about the opportunities and expressed feeling empowered to embrace them. Much gratitude was expressed to the SBDC, UB and TDC for the inspiration to go forward with their business ideas.