“The Bahamas is back, and open for business,” says the Honorable I. Chester Cooper, Deputy Prime Minister, Member of Parliament for Exuma and Ragged Islands and Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation (MOTIA) for The Islands of The Bahamas. This was the message he delivered to scores of boating industry professionals, the media and boating enthusiasts at the 2021 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS), on October 28, 2021 at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Deputy Prime Minister Cooper was accompanied by other senior government officials including the Honorable Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs and Member of Parliament for Central and South Eleuthera; John Pinder ll, Parliamentary Secretary in the MOTIA and Member of Parliament for Central and South Abaco; Senator, the Hon. Randy Rolle, Global Relations Consultant and Senior Advisor in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Dr. Kenneth Romer, Executive Director, Product Quality & Support Services, MOTIA, along with senior executives of the MOTIA.
While at FLIBS, Deputy Prime Minister Cooper maintained a robust itinerary. He took time out to meet with leading boating trade media including editors of YachtWorld, BoatTrader.com, Boats.com and Boating Industry. Accompanied by executives of the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM), Deputy Prime Minister Cooper also toured the boat show by land and sea and met with key yacht charter operators and brokers who service The Bahamas and, or who are interested in doing so. Among them were leaders from the International Yacht Brokers Association, USSA, National Marine and president of the U.S. Boat Shows and Informa Markets; the organizers of FLIBS, West Palm Beach International Boat Show and Miami Boat Show.
FLIBS, regarded as the ”yachting capital epicenter” and the largest in-water boat show in the world, attracted some 100,000 persons, 642 exhibitors and 686 boat displays.
Throughout the 5-day show, which ran October 27-31, business activity at the Bahamas MOTIA’s booth was consistently high. Thousands of boaters and boating enthusiasts were able to meet directly with some 14 Bahamas hotel and marina operators (who were also housed at the Bahamas pavilion) and book direct business at their respective properties, for the 2021-2022 season.
Hundreds of boaters interested in conducting boating flings to The Bahamas registered and attended two boating seminars, which focused on first time crossers navigating the Gulf Stream to The Bahamas and showcased an update on the restoration of Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands – which are both open for business. The seminars were conducted by representatives of the MOTIA’s Vertical team, Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board, Abaco Beach Resort and the Bahamas’ newly appointed Bahamas Boating Ambassadors.
Grateful to the MOTIA and its Bahamas industry partners for participating in this most important event, Minister Cooper said he was particularly impressed and encouraged by what he saw at FLIBS and the high level of interest and confidence shown by visitors and industry professionals in The Bahamas.
Florida is a significant market for The Bahamas, from fishing and day trips to boating and mega yacht charters. The Islands of The Bahamas are located a mere 50 nautical miles off the coast of Florida.
“This level of interest shown in The Bahamas, especially from our friends in Florida, speaks volume of the possibilities and endless opportunities for growth in our boating and yachting sector, and we are grateful,” said Deputy Prime Minister Cooper.
“When many visitors were unable to travel and many businesses were inoperable, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic shut-downs, it was boaters and yachters who kept returning to The Bahamas, providing business activity for our hotel and marina operators and residents. And while boating and yachting took a dive during the pandemic, our current records indicate that boating levels have returned to 60%, pre-pandemic levels and growing from strength to strength,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister highlighted the incredible comeback The Bahamas has made, in light of Hurricane Dorian which affected Grand Bahama and Abaco just before the pandemic.
He pointed out that the quick resurgence and rebound in Grand Bahama and Abaco, particularly evidenced in Hope Town and the Abaco cays, came primarily from the boating community, friends of The Bahamas in Florida and second-home owners, a feat that The Bahamas could not have achieved without them.
“I have come to understand and appreciate that boating and yachting are the biggest and most natural bridging connecter for business to The Bahamas, from Bimini in the North to Inagua in the South, especially from Florida, the main gateway to The Bahamas.”
“This is an exciting time for us in The Bahamas,” Deputy Prime Minister Cooper said. “We have a number of new marinas, product offerings and expansions underway.”
“We will chart a new course, build on the work already done by my team and industry partners and work together to capitalize on the many opportunities that await, that boating and yacht chartering bring to The Bahamas. Among them: competitive charter fees, provisions in concierge charter services, logistics, cleaning, boat and shipyard repairs, second-home and touristic investments, among others,” he concluded.
Plans are already underway with the Association of Bahamas Marinas for the 2nd Annual Bahamas Superyacht Charter Show, scheduled for February 24-27, 2022 in Nassau, Bahamas.