Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper said the government expects that there will be a debate on the Tourism Development Corporation Bill in the House of Assembly.
“While establishing the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC), this bill also establishes the Tourism Development Fund and is a key piece of legislation that will encourage the resilient and sustainable development of the tourism industry,” the Deputy Prime Minister said during his Contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Monday, June 19, 2023.
He explained that this is a vehicle to get comprehensive ownership in the economy for Bahamians, allowing the average Bahamian an avenue into the massive potential of the tourism industry.
“We have been talking about linkages to tourism for decades, now we are doing something about it in a meaningful way. We hear over and over that Bahamians are locked out of the tourism industry; that the red carpet is laid out for foreign investors.”
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper said the bill encourages foreign investment with a view to their economic benefit to harness local entrepreneurship. Furthermore, the Tourism Development Corporation will lower the barriers to entry into the tourism industry for the average young man or young woman.
He said, “I have announced more than $6 billion dollars in new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects since coming to office. We view the massive growth in FDI in the tourism space as not being for the sake of development itself or to simply enrich the developer, but to advance Bahamian ownership.”
The Deputy Prime Minister said tourism is booming and the government intends to see Bahamians carve out more of a space in this lucrative market.
He noted that previously, the TDC operated as a department in the Ministry of Tourism, and this new government administration repurposed the TDC.
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper said the TDC is now focused on providing sustained support to tourism entrepreneurs, strengthening their economic viability, improving the local product to enhance the visitor experience and ultimately growing the Bahamian economy.
He added that the TDC will be a statutory body whose remit is to develop, enhance, expand, diversify, and revitalize tourism products and experiences whilst empowering Bahamians.
“This bill will codify the Tourism Development Corporation to be the primary entity concerned with resilient and sustainable tourism development in The Bahamas.”
The Deputy Prime Minister said it also establishes a Tourism Development Fund that would be controlled by the board of the corporation and that can be funded in numerous ways.
“The relaunched TDC is also designed to support the ease of doing business in the tourism industry, to facilitate opportunities for tourism entrepreneurial growth, employment and income generation and to spread the benefits of tourism across the economy.
“Through the TDC, we will promote domestic entrepreneurship, investment in tourism and facilitate tourism investment incentives, concessions and technical assistance for Bahamians. In a nutshell, the TDC’s purpose is to facilitate more and enhanced Bahamian-owned tourism offerings.”
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper said another key remit is the expansion of domestic investment in the vacation rental sector whether by AirBNB, VRBO, Booking.com or any of the digital platforms.
He said, “Yes, we want more. Our industry is booming, but we need more rooms. Whilst we build more hotels, this is the fastest way to expand capacity. So, I call on Bahamians and residents to open your homes, help us to solve this incredible problem – whilst making money and creating wealth.” (BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)