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Welcome Centre’s $2M Facelift—Renovation Forces Temporary Shutdown

The Festival Place Welcome Centre is set to undergo a multi-million dollar facelift, forcing a temporary shutdown and the relocation of its vendors.

No word yet on how long the works will take to complete but Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe recently revealed that it will cost over $2 million and that in the process, vendors will be relocated by Prince George Wharf under cabanas.

“The Welcome centre is just too small. At one point, we thought we were going to be able to do about one million to one million and a half visitors, but we’re doing almost five million visitors on the cruise and it continues to grow,” he said.

“We also have to create greater appeal, so for that to work, we’ve got to shut it down, look at the stores we have inside, extend it further to the other warehouse to give more shopping space and then of course, it has to be uniquely Bahamian. We must remember that we have visitors on Bay Street on Saturdays and Sundays. We want to get them off there. We don’t think that’s where they ought to be. We have to find a place for them to give them a real opportunity.”

Work on the Welcome Centre’s roof is expected to begin at the end of the month, according to the minister.

Mr. Wilchcombe’s comments came during the Norwegian Breakaway’s inaugural voyage to Nassau last Thursday.

On board, were tens of thousands of passengers, which could potentially spell good news for the local tourism industry.
The ship’s sister vessel, Norwegian Getaway will begin calling on The Bahamas next February all year round.

“For The Bahamas, people coming here is one thing. Great Sturrup Cay has 50 people working there now. A lot of visitors come off the vessel there. But, when it comes to the capital – the port of Nassau – we have got to get more of those people off the boat because when you look at the spend, that’s where my difficulty is,” Minister Wilchcombe explained.

“If you have millions of visitors and they’re spending an average of $60, $70, $80, that’s not enough. We have got to get more, which means there is a demand on Bahamians to create more tours, more activities to ensure there is more night life, to ensure we have activities generally.”

Apart from cashing in on visitors, the minister also sees the opportunity for The Bahamas to rake in money from cruise ship crews.

“When they come in port, they have to go to barbershops, have to get their clothes cleaned. They have to do all this stuff and so we’re trying to bring another component to our commercialisation of this cruise visitors to The Bahamas because if we can do that effectively, then there’s more money spent, we’re benefitting more otherwise we will be stuck with those who come off and those who come to The Bahamas multiple times, don’t want to come off because there’s nothing to do, so we’re working right now to introduce a few new things,” Minister Wilchcombe added.

In hopes of getting the ball rolling, tourism officials have invited cruise ship representatives as well as those Bahamians keen on selling their ideas and projects to a meeting next month.

According to the minister, it is not only an opportunity for cruise liners to pin down new tours and businesses but think about what souvenirs can be sold on their vessels.

“Every day, you have to think about how you’re going to cause what they do to permeate in the economy,” he said.
“…The Bahamas must always renew itself and when you don’t do that effectively, you become an old tired destination and once that happens, people would want to go to other places. We want people to be so anxious to come to The Bahamas they want to spend, they want to visit whether it’s a show.”

In this vein, tourism officials are hoping to lock down Bahamian folk opera Sammie Swain.

“It has the Broadway appeal…We don’t have enough shows. We don’t have enough entertainment. We don’t have enough Bahamian restaurants,” the minister acknowledged.

The plan is to revitalise Junkanoo Beach into a place where there is non-stop activity.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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