The Nassau Cruise Port provides insights on its groundbreaking Authentically Bahamian Program, an initiative aimed at fostering local talent and preserving the rich cultural heritage of The Bahamas. Unparalleled benefits have also been extended to the tenants of Nassau Cruise Port, including free rent for one year, generous grants of up to $20,000 for fit-out, and the benefit of comprehensive training and engagement sessions over the past 18 months.
The Authentically Bahamian Program is a testament to Nassau Cruise Port’s commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs, artisans, and businesses while elevating the cruise port experience to new heights. By championing Bahamian authenticity, Nassau Cruise Port strives to create a more immersive and culturally enriched experience for cruise passengers visiting Nassau. Producing authentic Bahamian products was conceived originally by The Government of The Bahamas and was in existence in the former cruise port Welcome Centre at Festival Place. Within the Port Marketplace at Nassau Cruise Port there are 40 retail tenants and 10 food and beverage tenants. The Port Marketplace is located steps away from the Arrivals Plaza and is mere feet from the gateway which will see an expected 4.1 million passengers in 2023. In addition to the traffic provided by cruise passengers, the 11 acres of new retail and food and beverage offerings at Nassau Cruise Port is open to residents and stopover guests from the hotels.
Majority of the tenants within the Port Marketplace at Nassau Cruise Port are legacy tenants from the former Festival Place. In 2003, the Ministry of Tourism sought to create an authentic market featuring Bahamian artisans. The requirement that the majority of products offered for sale needed to be authentic was fundamental to the original lease with Ministry of Tourism. Over the years, product lines became less and less authentic, and more mass-produced. Three years ago, Nassau Cruise Port began comprehensive engagement with each of its legacy tenants and Nassau Cruise Port executives held one-on-one meetings with each individual tenant to understand their businesses and to discover the impetus of their business becoming selected as a vendor at Festival Place, some of which have been operating in the port space since 2003. NCP made efforts to understand the artistic offerings presented by each tenant, and also took the opportunity to answer questions and to shed light on the benefits that would soon be afforded to them with the transformation of the cruise port on Prince George Wharf.
In the discussions with each tenant, and in the several engagement sessions to follow, the Authentically Bahamian criteria was discussed, which stipulated primarily that product lines and offerings must have a Bahamian value added and be locally produced as much as possible. The criteria aimed to get back to basics and get back to what was originally offered by these legacy tenants. It was also made clear that the Port Marketplace tenants were not required to only sell what they themselves produced, but they could source authentic product lines from around the archipelago of The Bahamas. Nassau Cruise Port held a trade fair in December 2021 over two days at Atlantis, organized by the Authentically Bahamian Advisory Committee, to assist its tenants in making connections with artisans and producers from all around The Bahamas. The trade fair received applications from 136 authentic Bahamian producers and was only able to accommodate 88 of them, with 17 of them coming from The Family Islands, who received the added benefit of compensation for their travels.
Veteran Bahamian cultural advocate, Pam Burnside, who is the Chair of the NCP Authentically Bahamian Committee stated: "We have been meeting with the NCP Marketplace Tenants since October 2021 to bring this vision to fruition as a team. Having entertained open dialogue and received such positive feedback throughout the course of this exercise, it is plain to see that this is a fantastic, unprecedented opportunity that has been afforded to the Port vendors. We have a plethora of creative talent throughout The Bahamas - passionate, hardworking artists and artisans who are clamoring for such opportunity and exposure, as evidenced by the 80 plus vendors we successfully showcased in the Authentically Bahamian Trade Fair held in December 2021. The success of this venture depends directly on our ability to be authentically Bahamian, by being who we is!"
Key Benefits afforded to the Marketplace Tenants at Nassau Cruise Port:
Free Rent for One Year: To alleviate the financial burden on its Marketplace Tenants, the Nassau Cruise Port is providing one year rent free to lease holding tenants. This unprecedented initiative allows these small business owners to focus on their growth and development without the immediate pressure of rent expenses. The waiving of rent for a year also allows tenants to adjust their authentic products and non-Bahamian product offerings to be better aligned with demand. The rent waiver gives the tenants an opportunity to refine their products and promote their unique artistic offerings. In addition, tenants were only required to pay a security deposit, not first and last month’s rent.
Affordable Liability Coverage: Nassau Cruise Port brokered a deal to provide liability insurance coverage for each tenant at Nassau Cruise Port for a minimal cost, saving time, money and effort and ultimately benefiting all of the tenants.
Fit-Out Grant of up to $20,000: Recognizing the importance of creating a unique and compelling space, and the financial pressure of setting up a new “brick and mortar” shop space, Nassau Cruise Port partnered with the Small Business Development Centre / Access Accelerator (SBDC) to extend grants of up to $20,000 to assist tenants in funding their fit-out projects. Funded by Nassau Cruise Port, the Authentic Bahamian Grant Programme unlocked funding for all Marketplace tenants that they would have otherwise had to fund completely on their own. Additionally, for its retail tenants, Nassau Cruise Port sourced suppliers who specialized in millwork displays to showcase higher end products, elevating the retail environment, and was able to capitalize on volume pricing. Retail tenants were able to choose fit-out items for their Marketplace Boutiques and Nassau Cruise Port installed them. Completed fit-outs have allowed these retail tenants to only have to deal with moving inventory over to their new spaces, with everything else being taken care of for them. Funding made available through the SBDC was specifically for persons intending to sell authentic Bahamian products. Successful applicants committed to the SBDC that they would sell authentic products, in line with their product certifications.
Training and Engagement Sessions: The Nassau Cruise Port firmly believes in the power of knowledge and networking. Tenants at NCP were offered extensive training sessions and engagement opportunities with industry experts over the past 18 months. These sessions covered a wide range of topics, including: customer service excellence, bookkeeping, health and safety, and merchandising strategies to enhance their offerings and overall business performance.
“The authentic Bahamian initiative is the product of years of work and dedication and has been supported by the participation of industry leaders sitting on the Authentically Bahamian Advisory Committee such as Creative Nassau, Ministry of Tourism, BAIC, TDC, SBDC, BHTA and Nassau Cruise Port” said Mike Maura Jr., CEO of Nassau Cruise Port. “The Port Marketplace is also positioned steps away from The Bahamas Museum of Junkanoo, in an effort to first and foremost promote our Bahamian culture and heritage. Nassau Cruise Port firmly believes that focusing on authentic Bahamian products in our Port Marketplace, just feet away from our country’s largest tourism gateway respects and promotes the vast potential of creative artisans and our heritage. It also allows Nassau to offer products that can only be found in The Bahamas, rather than products a cruise passenger can find in every other port on their itinerary.”
With the Authentically Bahamian Program, Nassau Cruise Port envisions a future where the cultural tapestry of The Bahamas is vividly interwoven into the fabric of the tourism experience. By supporting local entrepreneurs and artisans, NCP aims to contribute to the economic growth of the region while preserving its heritage for generations to come. The investment made by Nassau Cruise Port in support of its Marketplace Tenants empowers businesses to craft an authentic Bahamian ambiance that resonates with both tourists and locals alike.