Speaking at the opening of the Abaco Business Outlook the Prime Minister, Perry Christie spoke of the enormous potential in Abaco’s economy despite a variety of challenges that stand in the way.
Highlighting the challenges according to Mr. Christie, is a report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) showing problems with productivity in the country. This, coupled with issues with the ease of doing business and geographical challenges, are obstacles he noted to our economic growth.
Despite these challenges he noted that Abaco is a resilient island and the economy here continues to show growth and growth potential in tourism and other industries
“Few destinations in The Bahamas or smaller destinations of the Region are as distinctive in character or as uniquely positioned as Abaco to deliver over the next decade and beyond exceptional levels of tourism performance, real-estate related enterprises and community development set in a most attractive environment,” Mr. Christie said.
He lauded Abaco’s historical growth trends particularly in the performance of both its air and boating sectors. “In fact, it is one of only a handful of islands in our archipelago that has experienced a kind of robust, organic and measured multi-sector development delivering economic returns that are the envy of other destinations within The Bahamas and in the Region.”
He added that “With over ninety-nine thousand visitors coming by air to the destination in 2015, Abaco is also one of only three islands in The Bahamas that was able to meet or exceed the region’s overall growth rate of seven (7.3) percent in foreign air arrivals last year.”
“Abaco’s performance is magnificent when you place it in context because according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the Caribbean outpaced the rest of the world in global growth of international visitors for the second consecutive year, with a seven percent increase in the number of international visits overall, and double digit increases from the United Kingdom and South America in 2015.”
Mr. Christie said that only three destinations in The Bahamas have been able to match that level of performance consecutively for two years running. They are Abaco, Bimini and Exuma, and of the three, Abaco consistently eclipses Bimini and Exuma in visitor volume by large margins.
He said that in relation to our proximity to the United States that Abaco is well poised to take advantage with marina hotels functioning as anchor properties for their destinations. “Abaco has more marina hotels than any island in The Bahamas, which, on the whole, have fared better than traditional hotel products. With over 17 marinas providing eleven hundred twenty four (1124) slips, Abaco has been able to capitalize on the naturally occurring pastimes of yachting, cruising and boating as well as private flying from both near and far-flung markets in the north-east USA and offer winning combinations of flying, fishing and boating and diving experiences for travelers.”
He said that Abaco has developed over the years into a market leader, keeping ahead of trends and parlaying challenges into opportunities.
He added that in terms of room inventory, Abaco has seen robust growth as research has shown that marina hotels properties, apartment/villas, vacation rentals, second homes and bonefish lodges collectively produce a higher and more distributed revenue stream within destinations than traditional hotels.
“In fact, vacation rental properties today account for almost 50% of the eighteen hundred fifty rooms (1850) on the Island. Although much of the business is still seasonal, the uptick in demand has caused many hotels to transition to year-round operations,” he said.
Mr. Christie made note of several ongoing developments including Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, which has spent in excess of $250 million for development, the Abaco Club at Winding Bay, with over $123 million in capital works underway, the Leeward Yacht Club and Marina which is undergoing a $3 million capital improvement initiative and at Schooner Bay which includes expansion of its residential offering and completion of the $2.5 million, 8 room Blackfly Fishing Lodge.
He highlighted the recent introduction of the Treasure Sands Club, as “a high-end, innovative farm-to-table restaurant concept in Treasure Cay and a growing trend across the globe, provides a unique twist on upscale dining in Abaco.”
He added that the Woodstar farm, a part of Treasure Sands, utilizing an 80 foot high-tech barn and greenhouse, provides locally grown produce for the restaurant, supports a school lunch program for pre-schools in the area and operates a farmer’s market for the community of Treasure Cay.
“The performance of these new developments and of traditional hotel businesses will continue to give Abaco more leverage with its supplier network of airlines such as Delta, which inaugurated twice weekly service to Marsh Harbour from Atlanta, and with traditional and online operators all of whom are attracted by the destination’s strong following of loyal consumers and those seeking new and trending destinations,” Mr. Christie said.
As he wrapped up Mr. Christie said that there is a high level of optimism as Abaco still has the potential for unlimited growth. “Within another generation Abaco can be expected deliver further international access through an expanded airport with pre-clearance facilities and can anticipate at least 30 new small resorts and marinas and another 6000 second homes, driving infrastructure, capital development and new job creation – a feat not possible by many of its regional competitors.”
“With even newer technologies of the future, Abaco is also poised to benefit from a younger generation of experienced local entrepreneurs and skilled workers and a solid base of loyal and preferential customers who are today the children of many of its second home owners and who tomorrow, side by side with Abaconians, may well become its investors in development of an even more exciting destination created in the place they now call their second home,” he concluded.