A Hotel Licensing Seminar was held at the Office of the Prime Minister located in the Bahamas Government Complex on Feb. 23. Persons in attendance were representative of the Ministry of Tourism, Administrator’s Office and a cross-section of the hospitality and hotel sectors on Abaco.
The seminar was facilitated by Bonnie Rolle, general manager with responsibility for training in the Hotel Licensing Dept. of the Ministry of Tourism. Other presenters were: Donna Francis, senior manager in the Inspectorate Unit; Cynthia Bowe, general manager of Compliance and Finance; and Quinta Dean of the Owner-Occupied Home Rentals (OOHR) Unit of the Hotel Licensing Dept.
Overall, the presentations focused on owner-occupied rental homes and inspectorate procedures, which covered the inspector’s role in hotel licensing procedures. Rolle said inconsistencies were discovered throughout The Bahamas with how hotel licensing boards renew licenses of hotels. They also acknowledged the challenges the country faces as a destination with respect to the tourist accommodation sector of the industry to ensure consistency in the procedures, and the maintenance of standards in hotels.
Rolle shared that they recently visited Eleuthera before travelling to Abaco because their intent is to meet with all the Hotel Licensing Board members and the Local Government Department for full support. Members are inclusive of the island administrator who oversees the board as the secretariat.
In her presentation, Dean outlined the challenges of each island, the ongoing registration drive, and the launch of a new database. One of the main challenges has been with second homeowners renting their homes. Sometimes the rentals are not registered with the Ministry of Tourism or monitored, so the aim is to bring the rentals into compliance using best practices and standards.
Their intent is to also make the Owner-Occupied Rental Home Unit an integral and economically viable part of the accommodation sector. To be successful in this endeavor, they are working in tandem with Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) in this objective.
As for Bowe, the focus of her presentation was trying to synchronize and bring synergy to the procedures of all hotel licensing boards in the country by applying the same standards when granting a license to operate a hotel.
“We want to ensure that boards are meeting to deliberate on the granting and the issuance of licenses,” Bowe emphasized. “We want to make sure a legislated stand is adhered to to ensure best practices, a safe environment and a pleasant experience for our visitors.”
Donna Francis was the final speaker. Her presentation detailed the requirements for hotel inspections and re-inspections as well as the need for spot checks. She also discussed hotel complaints and types of complaints they receive. The Inspectorate Unit maintains a directory of hotels as well as a listing of proposed hotels.
The Hotel Licensing Department is the inspectorate agency of The Bahamas Government responsible for regulation and maintenance of product and safety standards for all types of guest facilities. The work of the department is administered through the Hotels Act, 1970 and the Hotels Regulations, 1971 (referred to as Chapter 288).
The Hotel Licensing Department functions within the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and acts as secretariat for the New Providence Hotel Licensing Board. The department facilitates the work of the five (5) member Board to ensure that hotel standards are maintained and hotel operations are in compliance with the Hotels Act and the Hotels Regulations. The department assists and supports the work of the Local Government Hotel Licensing Boards in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands; and conducts inspections of hotels throughout The Islands of The Bahamas.
Administrative matters of the Hotel Licensing Department are segregated into six (6) distinct units, namely: Inspectorate, Revenue, Data Management, Information Management, Owner-Occupied Rental Homes (OORH) and Training.