NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Throughout The Bahamas tourism industry, operators have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Bahamian-owned excursion operations have not only been negatively impacted, but feel mostly unrepresented in Government’s response. In order to strengthen their voice and align their requests The Bahamas Excursions Operators Association (BEOA) was created. Current members of the BEOA are Bahamian water-based operators, and the association is looking to grow and attract more members.
“Tourism, the backbone of The Bahamian economy, is comprised of many players. Quite often however larger entities, such as the hotels and cruise operators, tend to be the only bodies with a seat at the table,” stated Krystianna Pinder, founding board member. “By forming an association and streamlining our message, we are seeking to change this” she continued.
Bahamian businesses have been providing water-based experiences to visitors for decades, while employing and training Bahamians and reinvesting directly into the local economy. Despite the number of operators nationally there still remains substantial opportunity for growth. The BEOA hopes to lobby for changes which would foster greater opportunities, carving out more of the lucrative tourism pie for Bahamians.
While the ultimate goal is to advance this tourism industry sub-sector for more Bahamian participation, there are immediate actions the Government can take to indicate endorsement of this objective. These include:
- Equalizing the tax regime for Bahamian vs. foreign operators (requiring foreign vessels to become VAT registrants and those here for extended periods of time to hold business licences)
- Tightening enforcement of industry regulations to combat unlicensed operators (hackers)
- Prohibit transient vessels from operating unlicensed in Bahamian waters
Founding board members of the association are:
- Iola Knowles, Sandy Toes
- Krystianna Pinder, Born Free Charters
- Michelle Cove, Stuart Cove’s
- Andoni Lisgaris, Reel Dreams Sport Fishing Charters
- Shaw Knowles, Pieces of 8 Charters
Other members include:
- Powerboat Adventures
- Party Cat Cruises
- Reel Deal Fishing Charters
- Tour Daddy
- Island King
- Seahorse Sailing
- Pearl Island
The BEOA is hoping to attract members who provide water-based excursions and activities to both visitors and Bahamians, and who are fully licenced and compliant with Government regulations.