NEW BIGHT, Cat Island, The Bahamas – During his Official Remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the Cat Island Tourist Office, in New Bight, Cat Island, on August 26, 2022, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Philip Davis said that, as a native Cat Islander, as the parliamentary representative for the People of Cat Island, and as the leader of the nation, he felt a “special sense of pride” in the opening of a Tourist Office on Cat Island.
“The pristine, exquisite natural beauty of Cat Island has been one of the best kept secrets of The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis said. “Today marks a turning point in the economic prospects for Cat Island.”
“With the establishment of a Tourist Office here at New Bight, Cat Island asserts its rightful place among the sixteen island destinations that the Ministry of Tourism markets to the world,” he added.
Among those present from the capital for the event were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation (MOTIA), the Hon. Chester Cooper and Mrs. Cooper; Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction the Hon. Myles LaRoda, and Permanent Secretary Carl Smith; MOTIA Permanent Secretary Reginald Saunders; MOTIA Global Relations Consultant Senator the Hon. Randy Rolle; MOTIA Deputy Director General Dr. Kenneth Romer; Senior Advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister Kevin Simmons; Acting Director of Local Government Neil Campbell; and other government officials and stakeholders.
Prime Minister Davis shared with those present a glimpse of the Cat Island of his youth.
“Growing up in Cat Island, I delighted in its gorgeous, long stretches of pink and white sand beaches, swam with my friends in its many creeks, climbed its green rolling hills and explored the many plantation ruins across this island,” he said. “Cat Island has always been paradise to me.
“I am indeed gratified to see growing numbers of travelers discover that it is a gem, a special treasure.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that, in comparison to some of the other islands of The Bahamas, modern development had been relatively slow in coming to Cat Island. While that may seem to be a disadvantage, it had worked in Cat Island’s favour, he said.
“More than any island of The Bahamas, Cat Island has preserved the authentic essence of The Bahamas,” Prime Minister Davis pointed out. He added: “Our foodways – the way we make our flour cakes, fry our fish, and bake bread in outdoor ovens – it is unique. Our tradition of storytelling gave the world one of its great film icons – Sir Sidney Poitier. Our passion for music produced the signature genre of rake ‘n’ scape and the music genius, the Obeah Man – Tony McKay.
“Even today, the music of the Obeah Man is still resonating with the world, as one of his famous songs is now being featured in a top Hollywood film by director, Jordan Peele.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that Cat Island had other great performers, who will emerge nationally and internationally.
“We will get to see some of them tonight, when Cat Island experiences its first Goombay Summer Festival,” he said. “It is a scene that this island ought to get used to because these types of events will be more frequent and more impactful now that this office is here to coordinate.”
“Cat Island has in abundance what the modern traveler seeks: natural beauty and a rich, well preserved authentic culture,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis noted that in 2023 The Bahamas will celebrate 50 years as an independent, sovereign nation. Leading up to that milestone, he said, there will be the opportunity to reflect on “our past accomplishments as well as those opportunities we have in front of us”.
Prime Minister Davis said that, over the past half century, the nation had made “tremendous strides” in growing its economy. Yet, he added, economic development and prosperity had been too narrowly confined. Select islands, he pointed out, had benefitted “handsomely”, while others had not.
“We are determined to achieve a more even distribution of economic development to the Family Island communities of our archipelago,” Prime Minister Davis said.
Prime Minister Davis noted that, leading the way to nationwide economic development was his Government’s comprehensive plan to construct and refurbish airports throughout the major islands via public private partnerships.
“With ease of airlift access, well planned sustainable development will follow in tune to the unique temperament of each island,” he said. “The goal is the empowerment of Bahamians – we want our people to stake out a greater share of the national economy.”
He added: “So, I say to you, my fellow Cat Islanders, look around your beautiful island. No one knows Cat Island like you. Identify the many interesting, unique experiences that are available on your island that you would like to share with our guests.”
Prime Minister Davis said to Cat Islanders that they have “an endearing charm and a warm and engaging hospitality” that make them natural hosts. “Many of you have long had innovative ideas for businesses,” he said. “Now is the time to step forward with those business ideas.
“You now have your own Tourist Office, manned by Ministry of Tourism staff, whose purpose is to assist and direct you in bringing those ideas to market.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that the government has included $50 million in the 2022 -2023 budget to support local business owners.
“Now is the time for all enterprising Cat Islanders to develop their creative business ideas,” he said.
“Resources like the Tourism Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Centre and Bahamas Invest are in place to provide advice and startup capital to those of you who have a sound, feasible business idea, and a burning desire to go into business,” he added.
Prime Minister Davis stated that his Government places great emphasis on improving the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. To enterprising Cat Islanders, he said that he can assure them that in 2022 and moving forward, it is much easier to start a business in The Bahamas.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have a vision for Cat Island,” Prime Minister Davis said.
“My vision is not mere wishful thinking,” he added. “It is rooted in my faith in the people of Cat Island, who are a people with a distinct sense of identity and a sense of purpose.”
Prime Minister Davis said that, in five to seven years, Cat Island was set to become an island in The Bahamas with “distinct brand recognition”.
“And we know how this will come about,” he said. “It will happen with the aid of targeted marketing by the Ministry of Tourism, and the thoroughly satisfying visitor experience that Cat Islanders will deliver.”
“I have no doubt that Cat Island will soon be known as a great escape for the residents of the U.S., Canada, the UK and the rest of Europe, when they need to deal with the stressful, hectic pace of life,” he added. “Cat Island is here to bring them tranquility, serenity and rejuvenation.”
Prime Minister Davis noted that Cat Island was likely to experience an increase in population, drawing residents from New Providence, Grand Bahama, and other islands, who will be attracted by the opportunities, not only in tourism, but in other areas such as agriculture and fisheries.
“Islands such as ours represent the new frontier of economic expansion,” he said. “As it does throughout our nation, tourism will be the driver of economic expansion in the Family Islands.”
Prime Minister Davis said that the guiding force behind The Bahamas’ tourism engine for the past 60 years had been the Ministry of Tourism.
“Today, the Ministry of Tourism takes its place on the ground, in Cat Island, marking a turning point in the economic future of Cat Island,” he said.“Ladies and gentlemen, let us applaud the future of Cat Island,” he added. “I have no doubt about it. Cat Island has a bright future ahead, and the future begins today.”