Bahamian entrepreneurs and prospective investors were encouraged by a Bahamian resort owner at the Abaco Business Outlook to not be reluctant to invest in the family islands, touting the potential of small-scale resorts despite problems relating to lack of infrastructure.
Dr. Keenan Larry Carroll, owner of the Sandpiper Inn at Schooner Bay, said that Bahamians’ reluctance to invest back into their country was arguably the largest threat to the local economy, adding that although the Family Islands were “well poised” for future developments given the lack of space for meaningful developments in New Providence and the capital’s “bastardized” tourism product, extensive government assistance was “not going to happen”.
Carroll said that he was inspired by the success of Gordon “Butch” Stewart’s Sandals resort brand, which had humble beginnings as a single Jamaican hotel. He said it is an example of the kind of opportunities available in tourism, should Bahamians take a chance in investing in the Family Islands. Small-scale resorts in underserved communities, Carroll stated, offered Bahamian investors the chance to contribute to the local economy in environments with relatively low competition.
“I know a lot of us, communities and so on, are economically challenged, but you cannot sit and depend solely on the government coming to your rescue. It’s not going to happen.
“We must try to do as much as we can by ourselves and let government catch up with us as opposed to us catching up with government. All the threats that I’ve gone through you should weigh them but you shouldn’t let them deter you, because if we the Bahamians start to invest in our own properties what we would sell would be uniquely Bahamian,” Carroll said.
Carroll added that infrastructural issues, such as the high costs incurred due to “monopolistic” entities such as Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), and Cable Bahamas Ltd., remained the greatest obstacles to steady, reliable returns on investments in the Family Islands.
Lack of support services, including mechanics, garbage collection and fire services are further “big threats” facing Schooner Bay and other family island communities, according to Carroll.
Aside from the opportunities that the Family Islands offered in the tourism sector, Carroll additionally encouraged Bahamians to invest in land, in part out of the threat of currency devaluation.
“We may want to stand here and fool ourselves but the reality is that tomorrow your $100 in the bank… may only be worth 10 cents… Investment in land is a great hedge against devaluation and the trickle-down economics work. When I moved to Schooner Bay, everything south of Winding Bay was essentially in economic doldrums or dead – there was nothing there,” he said.
Carroll opened the inn in late 2014 and said that he has already noticed a considerable upswing in the community’s economy through close collaboration with vendors and small business owners – providing a template for nuclear economic improvement that Carroll believes could be replicated across Abaco and other Family Islands with a little effort.
“It’s a sad reflection on us that we depend always on the foreign investor to come and make the investment… A true Bahamian is found in the out islands. Nassau is no longer an indication of what a Bahamian is.
“Nassau has been bastardized and changed into a resort… you name the resort and Nassau fits into that mold. The urge to work, the cultural passivity of the Bahamian is lost in Nassau now. Everybody is cutthroat and trying to get [their] piece of the pie,” he said.