Grand Bahamian tourism economy got a huge booster shot of optimism and hope on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, when close to one thousand visitors from two major cruise ships visited the island, partaking in various tourism attractions. Four cruise ships had docked in the Freeport Harbour Wednesday morning –the Norwegian Sky, the Norwegian Pearl, the Grand Classica and Ocean Voyager — and hundreds of passengers filed out of the belly of those mega vessels and filled a number of tour buses, headed for attractions in West End and in the Port Lucaya Marketplace.
“This is a wonderful time for Grand Bahama,” said Senator James Turner, who was on hand to welcome some of the visitors to the Port Lucaya Marketplace on Wednesday afternoon. “This is the time that reminds us of what once was and what we have to reclaim.
“We’ve been saying for a long time in Grand Bahama that we all ought to participate in the prosperity of the islands of The Bahamas. Today is wonderful. Four cruise ships in the port, we see buses going back and forth, picking up and dropping off tourists, we see the vendors here in the marketplace negotiating, we see hundreds of visitors walking around and we see our tourism officials smiling.”
Three hundred of the visitors were bused to Crystal Bay Beach, where they took part in the “swim with the pigs” experience. The attraction has been around since 2013 and has grown to become popular not only for cruise passengers, but also for those staying in Airbnb and even by local residents. The tourist site not only gives visitors an opportunity to swim with and feed trained pigs, but there are kayaks available, a restaurant that serves strictly Bahamian dishes and drinks, a gift shop and cabanas set up along the beach shore.
Steven Johnson, General Manager at Bahamas Ministry of Tourism in Grand Bahama could not hide his excitement as he pulled onto the Crystal Bay Beach to welcome the visitors to the tourist attraction. He noted that things are starting to happen for Grand Bahama in terms of its tourism economy and the four cruise ships in port on Wednesday was just the beginning.
“Grand Bahama is primed for what is about to come,” said Mr. Johnson. “We’re excited about today and about the future. We were in Colombia about two weeks ago and we’re looking at a program out of Colombia. It’s not confirmed yet, but we’re working on it.
“Grand Bahama has turned into an all-age party city. People are coming here, whether corporately or for leisure, to celebrate and have parties in Grand Bahama. We’re excited about the opportunities that are coming.”
The tourism executive said there is the opportunity to bring in fraternal tourism, religious tourism and other major groups. He noted that some of the attractions that have always been big sellers for Grand Bahama are up and running again. Specifically, he noted that diving in Grand Bahama has become extremely popular with visitors.
“We have two of the top diving exploration spots in the region at Tiger Beach just outside of West End and Shark Junction,” said Johnson. “There are lots of activity at those spots. In fact, we have people coming in to make movies at those sites. Actually, I recently signed about 15-20 different releases, giving approval for movie companies to bring in equipment to make their movies.
“There’s something about diving here in Grand Bahama, particularly shark diving that you cannot get anywhere else in the Bahamas. So Grand Bahama has suddenly become a big diving hotspot. So, we’re excited about the possibilities for Grand Bahama’s tourism.”
The influx of visitors to the island comes a week after Minister for Tourism, Hon. Chester Cooper, bemoaned the empty, ghost-like feeling in Port Lucaya Market Place, during his visit to the island and tour of the market place.
During the time, the Tourism Minister, along with the Minister for Grand Bahama, Hon. Ginger Moxey, vowed to hold talks with the major cruise lines to find a way to bring visitors off the ships, away from the harbor and into the Port Lucaya Marketplace and to other tourist destinations on the island.
“This is a red-letter day for Grand Bahama and it is certainly the beginning of a new day for the people of our island,” said Senator James Turner. While he expressed gratitude for the influx of visitors to Grand Bahama and the economic opportunities for local businesses, Steven Johnson acknowledged that for many Grand Bahamians it has been difficult economically, having gone through the devastation of Hurricane Dorian and then the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“But we say to them, hold on, hang on because the Magic City is almost on its way back,” Johnson added.
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