Some suggestions on how Grand Bahama can use its religious background to try to attract more visitors to its shores were presented by the President of the Grand Bah-ama Port Authority (GBPA) Ian Rolle on Tuesday.
Rolle was one of the speakers at Tuesday's National Empowerment Summit wh-ich was hosted by the Bah-amas Christian Council.
Pointing out that religious tourism is an $18 billion industry, the GBPA president said the economic benefits are potentially huge if the island is able to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors motivated by its many religious events and its spiritual heritage.
The Bahamas' religious history, geographical location and strong spiritual foundation make it ideal for setting up multi-purpose facilities to accommodate small or mega Christian conferences and gospel concerts, Christian camps or retreat facilities and Christian cruises throughout the islands, originating in Freeport, Rolle said.
Christian tours exploring Bahamian churches, religious rituals, Bahamian burials and a multi-media history of religion in the Bahamas and even a full Christian village that reflects Christian motifs, art, family friendly facilities and events can also be developed, he added.
Noting that the revitalization of Grand Bahama will require a collaborative effort, Rolle said the GBPA is happy to partner with the Christian Council.
"We are all in this together and with God's help we will emerge stronger as a community," he said.
The GBPA is also working with The Ministry of Tourism and The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board on several levels, he furthered, to refine, package and market the tourism product in Grand Bahama.
"Tremendous focus has been placed on making travel to our shores and the enjoyment of the product more affordable to our potential guests from around the world."
The GBPA also has as one of its goals to increase Bahamian ownership within the economy and is committed to putting the people of Grand Bahama in a position where they are the main agent determining their own success and destiny, he said.
It is understood that in order for empowerment to take place, he added, citizens must have access to information about opportunities, cha-llenges, where to go for help and what procedures they must follow to achieve their goals.
"Our people must have access to decision making bodies to weigh in on the governance of their institutions and communities. Ultimately they must have access to resources to realize their aspirations," he said.
"Daily we are working to ensure that these conditions continually improve for the families and businesses we serve. After all, it is largely the ingenuity and hard work of ordinary men and women that will stimulate and sustain industry in Grand Bahama once again."
Although these may be challenging times for Grand Bahamians, Rolle said he is confident that they can weather the storm.
He pointed out that Grand Bahama has a special mix of natural and man made features, complimented by a tax regime and skilled workforce that gives it a unique advantage in the Americas.
"Freeport, in particular, is carefully planned and its sheer size permits a mix of business enterprises to coexist," he said.
"The Grand Bahama we envision in the future will serve as a model internationally of how to construct a society that balances a high quality of life for families with an environment that is bustling with modern businesses."
As the island continues to face stiff competition in tourism, financial services, industry, technology and real estate development, residents must now, more than ever, keep abreast of global business trends, constantly upgrade their skills, and be prepared to out-think and out-work the competition.
"More than ever we need to form and join partnerships that will help us achieve some outcomes that as individuals or as organizations we have no chance of achieving alone," he said.
"Despite the challenges that we face, and those that may appear on the horizon, I'm confident that careful preparation, prudent management of resources and ability to adjust and adapt will put us all in good stead for the future."