Bahamas government preparing for Cuba opening up

PerryChristie-1Nassau, Bahamas — Prime Minister Perry Christie said on Wednesday the announcement that the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba “ought to be a very serious concern” for The Bahamas’ tourism product.

Christie said the government is encouraging investments to be able to respond well to this eventuality.

“It ought to be a serious concern for The Bahamas,” Christie told reporters outside the House of Assembly.

“We knew this was in the air… Cuba has always been an extraordinary destination of interest to people who travel and therefore the people of the world will have a particular interest in going to Cuba,” he said.

Christie, who was in Cuba last week, said Cuban officials spoke about the implications for Cuba’s tourism product if the US embargo is lifted.

“As we were leaving, President Raul Castro said to me people would wish to taste the forbidden fruit and that is going to be the attraction for them,” Christie said.

“They are obviously going to have to build more hotel rooms over the next several years.”

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the policy shift, which is widely viewed as a step toward lifting the 54-year-old embargo on Cuba.

Obama said the United States plans to open an embassy in Cuba and possibly make changes to the travel laws that restricted traffic between the two countries.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said there will be “significant potential economic consequences” for The Bahamas as a result.

Ingraham said the country will need to bring focused attention to its tourism product.

“There is no question that it will have some implications to The Bahamas and The Bahamas must now give real focus to how it will compete in this expanded market to the American tourists,” he said.

“Of course [we can coexist]. We coexisted before. Hopefully, The Bahamas’ share of the market will not be identical to the share of the market that Cuba will find.”

He noted that with the development of Baha Mar, the country will have two major resorts to fill.

“So there are significant potential economic consequences arising from the United States’ position this morning.”

Outside the House, Christie acknowledged that Cuba will offer a different experience but insisted The Bahamas is on the threshold for increased development and investments.

“Maybe you will now understand why I haven’t taken a day off and I’m driving the investment portfolio,” he said.

“We have over the next few months major announcements to make about additional investments in the country.

“I think from the point of view from the economy, people of The Bahamas will know that things will be well.”

Christie said he recently met with three major entertainment companies, which expressed interest in establishing festivals in The Bahamas immediately.

“You’re going to find that as we go into next year there is going to be incredible excitement in this destination,” he said.

Christie also underscored the efforts to solve the country’s crime problem.

“We are going to come to grips with the issues in this country,” he said. “We have to solve the issues in this country.

“…We are the best little country in the world, notwithstanding the fact that Cuba will merge as a major power in the region.”

Ingraham noted that The Bahamas has always supported Cuba’s right to be recognized by America.

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