Negotiating with the gatekeeper: Young entrepreneurs and tourism

Noelle Khalila Nicolls Insight 0 Comments

IF the movements made by a handful of young Bahamian professionals over the past year in tourism are any indication of the entrepreneurial thinking of their counterparts, then there is some hope for the future outlook of tourism in the Bahamas.

Entrepreneurs such as Alanna Rogers, Jamie Lewis, Adlai Kerr and Scott Turnquest, owners of tourism startups Tru Bahamian Food Tours, Islandz Tours, and BahamaGo, are breaking barriers in tourism by going head to head with established businesses in nontraditional areas of the business. Their starups are refreshing additions to the product offering, and reflect a break from the tunnel vision way of thinking about tourism in terms of traditional service jobs, foreign direct investment and hotels.

The tour business in the Bahamas is not an easy one to get into. Ancient companies such as Majestic Tours, the last of the original travel agents from the days of white-only operators, have an effective monopoly over the key supply chains of visitors. And yet, Majestic Tours only places 19 amongst the 22 sightseeing tours ranked on Trip Advisor for Nassau based activities.

In the top spot on the Trip Advisor listing is Tru Bahamian Food Tours, with Islandz Tours following closely behind in the number four spot. As far as Trip Advisor is concerned Majestic Tours is essentially a nobody, despite their relative operational size and level of business experience. Old school business minds with an analogue outlook would not understand the significance of such a ranking. They miss how the Internet acts as a great democratic equalizer in this digital world, particularly for those with Rocky-style ambition and fight.

These young entrepreneurs are attempting to solve long-standing problems that the industry has been incapable of solving. The Downtown Nassau Partnership has doled out big dollars to revitalise downtown, focusing in large part on upgrading infrastructure. Their efforts are all well and good, but the creation of new businesses that add value and enhance the downtown Nassau experience could do just as well in the revitalisation efforts.

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