#TurksandCaicos, November 11, 2023 – Like myself, some citizens are often skeptical about any major developments and rapid population growth across these islands. It is seen as a danger in commoditising deeply held traditions so closely linked to individuals and our collective identity.
But there is a caveat, many still see it as the primary way to keep these tiny islands alive and to survive.
Tourism is the bread and butter of this tiny British overseas territory, with close to 800 million US dollars annually. This alone corresponds to approximately 75% of the country’s gross domestic product. Although Providenciales is the main hub for visitors via air travel, many are unaware that the sister islands are only a hop, skip and a jump away either by an interconnecting flight or the local ferry boats.
In recent years, visitors are flocking to the historical island of Grand Turk which is the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Although, in terms of development, it may not appear to be.
On this island in particular, over 80 percent of the residents depend to some extent on tourism. Grand Turk has a number of the amenities as most major cities, but still gives you that small town feel.
Like the sister island, Salt Cay, some supplies are limited. There is a fairly large selection of groceries at the supermarkets, however, healthy foods come at a high price. What residents and visitors can depend on is fresh catch of the day, which is regularly available by the local fishermen at reasonable prices.
Those in the tourism business tend to try and earn as much of their income as possible from visitors during the peak tourism season which is between November and April.
Many of the locals are still passionate with keeping the culture alive, and aren’t just motivated by cash for cash own sake, or the US dollar which is the only currency used. Nevertheless, tourism money is most definitely needed to improve infrastructure and quality of life on practically all of these islands.
Apart from the transient visitors and on cruise ship days, the population on Grand Turk is roughly around 3500 residents. Over the years, it has slowly dwindled once major development on the island of Providenciales began to take shape.
The nature of island life especially on Grand Turk and Salt Cay, has satisfactory temperamental transportation, and with a bit of pre-planning, a trip to any one of these islands is plenty rewarding for those looking for a charming, quiet atmosphere, beautiful by nature beaches, and a unique culture.
The nightlife in Grand Turk is pretty quiet and may be a bit different from what some are used too. With some exceptions, there are a few small neighborhood bars where you can mingle with the locals or enjoy a good laugh or play a few games of dominoes.
Grand Turk is the home of one of the oldest lighthouses in the Caribbean. For lighthouse enthusiast, although entrance into the building itself is off limit, one will enjoy the breathtaking scenery and will find it both charming and fascinating.
If you’re like most tourists looking for fancy hotels, five course meals, or seeking a choice of watching a night show, these things are not the norm.
Come if you’re interested in this spectacular island laidback culture, where you are still greeted with big smiles, good morning, or good evening, waving hands, honking horns and most everyone knows you by your last name.
For many reasons, my favorite island still remains Grand Turk. It’s captures the essence of the Turks and Caicos Islands culture, with a shared sense of identity. This is where I graduated high school and made most of my early childhood memories. One of the few islands in the Caribbean where cows, horses, donkeys and friendly dogs still roam wild.
Among the many ecotourism and land activities, one can enjoy things like snorkeling, stingray encounters, fishing, ATV and horseback rides.
If your lucky, during peak season, you may get a glimpse of the humpback whales breaching right from the shoreline or pier, which is a niche market to Grand Turk and Salt Cay.
Most people come just to be in the middle of nature and have that small island feeling. An opportunity to bask in the sunshine, the tranquility, enjoy the secluded beaches and stretches of unspoiled coastlines.
What the islands are experiencing now is an influx of vacationers on their second or third time around. Many who have found lucrative business opportunities and are investing in vacation homes and Air BNB rentals.
When you’re on the island, you take it for granted that life is like that; you don’t see the value in living that hustle and bustle lifestyle elsewhere. If you’re lucky to arrive on cruise ship days to Grand Turk, you can enjoy some entertainment and food for a few hours before returning to the quiet lifestyle.
Many visitors are usually fascinated with the laidback culture, relatively low crime rate and friendly people.
In my opinion, the island itself will benefit more if greater focus is placed on developing our unique culture as one of the main attractions which tourists enjoy. This could also help to support the community’s ability to keep those traditions alive and thriving.
On the other hand, unchecked growth may have negative downstream consequences.
The rapid growth on the island of Providenciales is a good example of that. Grand Turk in particular has less than 5 commercial motels for tourists to stay, while the island of Providenciales is booming in this sector.
What we are beginning to see are more short term rentals and Air B&B-style accommodations. Albeit, I think having at least one major hotel in Grand Turk and a direct flight would be welcomed by many.
Nevertheless, more development could compromise both the community and the environment, swinging the Capital out of its current beautiful by nature precarious equilibrium.
Furthermore, with having limited real estate on this tiny island, finding that balance is crucial for the government. It could help to protect residents from predatory land grab and prevent them from being priced out of their homes.
Perhaps, it would be prudent to invest and capitalize on some of our existing natural resources and historical sites.
In short order, starting with the restoration of our eighteen century light house, the old prison, our Salt house or more vigorously promoting the “magnificant wall”. The Wall as it is referred to, is an amazing 7k feet deep ocean shelf, approximately 1000 feet off Grand Turk shore line, a dream for snorkelers and scuba diving enthusiasts.
To attract repeat visitors, so much more can be done, while limiting the proliferation of brick and mortar buildings. The million dollar question now is how much development do we want? Despite the rustic look, the inconvenience at times, the occasional mosquitoes, the lack of adequate resources in some areas, its still a hidden gem.
For those having duel citizenship and easy access to travel visas, being able to go back and forward to the United States and elsewhere as one desires, it’s priceless! This is truly having the best of both worlds.
The Bahamas Records a “Smashing Eight Million Plus” Tourist Arrivals
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. I. Chester Cooper announced that The Bahamas has recorded a smashing eight million plus tourist arrivals.
“In 2019, a historic year for Bahamas tourism, total visitor arrivals amounted to 7.2 million. Last year, total tourist numbers matched the 2019 record year total and today we are over eight million,” the Acting Prime Minister said during a press conference and brunch at Margaritaville Beach Resort Meeting Room Ballroom on Monday, December 4, 2023.
He pointed out that the Ministry still has not counted the months of November and December.
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the explosive numbers places the country on the trajectory to continue the upward trend well into 2024.
“For the first 10 consecutive months, January to October, total air and sea arrivals were higher when compared to the same months in 2022 and in 2019 which was then, our banner year of tourism. We have now moved the goal post.”
He said, “In fact, foreign air and sea arrivals in October increased by 45.7 per cent compared to the same period in 2022 and surpassed 2019 levels by 32 per cent.”
The Acting Prime Minister explained that the US remains the top performing stopover market with the Latin American market gaining momentum in its steady return to pre-pandemic stopover levels, while increased visitor arrivals are coming from Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and as far as Australia.
He said foreign air arrivals for October year-to-date were up by 19.7 per cent for the same period last year and also surpassed 2019 levels.
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said cruise arrivals were up 54 per cent over 2022 levels and 43.2 per cent over 2019 levels.
“We estimate that direct visitor spending in the Bahamian economy as a result of these arrivals will far exceed $6 billion. That’s right, more than $6 billion of new money injected directly into the economy, and this is also up compared to 2019 and 2022.”
He also noted that the nation has seen increased airlift including first time routes.
“Last month, we welcomed the first ever direct non-stop flight by Jet Blue connecting passengers from Los Angeles to Nassau.
“In less than two weeks, Alaska Air will service four weekly flights from Los Angeles International Airport and three times weekly flights from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Nassau Lynden Pindling International Airport.”
The Acting Prime Minister said The Bahamas Government has launched a public private partnership airport infrastructural project for 14 Family Island airports to increase both domestic and international travel.
He explained that less than a year ago, the $2 million renovation was completed at Great Harbour Cay International Airport and a new terminal was opened in Ragged Island.
“More recently, a management agreement was signed by The Bahamas and Bimini Airport Development Partners Limited to renovate South Bimini Airport to the tune of $80 million.”
Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the $300 million Nassau Cruise Port renovation was completed and the port is now fully opened.
“The port already surpassed its previous record at the end of November and will host at least a projected 4.2 million cruise passengers by the end of the year, setting a new benchmark for Nassau cruise passenger arrivals.”
He also noted that the Ministry of Tourism has intensified its strategic marketing efforts and last year launched the successful “Bringing The Bahamas to You” campaign to more than 15 cities in the USA and Canada to recapture market share and generate new leads.
Deaths due to HIV/AIDS down 50 percent as World Aids Day marked Dec 1
December 5, 2023 – Deaths due to HIV/AIDS have been cut dramatically by fifty percent in the past thirteen years and on December 1, which is the annual commemoration of World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization called on communities to stand up to reduce the risks even further. The 2023 theme is “Let Communities Lead” as a testament to the notion, shared by the WHO, that “we can end AIDS with communities leading the way.”
In the past five decades, treatment surrounding AIDS has increased exponentially and stigma is decreasing. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 69% since the peak in 2004 and by 51% since 2010. In 2022, around 630,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide, compared to 2.0 million people in 2004 and 1.3 million people in 2010.
“Much more than a celebration of the achievements of communities, it is a call to action to enable and support communities in their leadership role,” the WHO encourages.
The WHO is now focused on spreading awareness about the status of the pandemic and encouraging progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and care around the world.
Locally, among the events planned in the Turks and Caicos Islands is the annual Surf and Turf Horse Racing night on Friday 8th December at Opus Wine Bar and Grill, residents are invited for an evening of food, luck, and chances. All proceeds go towards the Turks and Caicos AIDS Awareness Foundation and Edward Gartland Youth Center.
New Report offers concrete data; Rising seas will DROWN Caribbean Islands
December 5, 2023 – Five percent or more of a few cities are predicted to fall permanently below sea level by the end of the Century due to the worsening effects of climate change and Kingston, Jamaica is included.
The data points to a future that should be feared as it said “coastal flooding this century will put over 70 million people in the path of expanding floodplains,” and it added that “Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are at the forefront, projected to lose significant land and critical infrastructure to permanent inundation.”
It further informs that coastal flooding has evidently increased over the past 20 years due to sea level rise, which now means that 14 million people globally live in coastal communities, faced with a 1 in 20 annual chance of flooding.
Referring to the fate of the Caribbean region, the data says that by 2100, much of the land in some Caribbean states are expected to be submerged.
“By 2100, climate change is expected to cause the submergence of a significant share of land (>5 percent) in the following Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Associate Members of United Nations Regional Commissions: Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, and Seychelles,” it said.
Regarding Kingston, Jamaica’s not so bright future in the face of climate change, like many Caribbean states if measures aren’t decided on swiftly, the report highlights a “worse-case warming scenario,” pointing to the other cities that share the same fate.
“Without shoreline defenses, under a worst-case warming scenario by the end of the century, 5 percent or more of the following cities are projected to fall permanently below sea level:”
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In continuation, Climate Impact Lab in its release detailing the findings, features the words of Pedro Conceição, Director of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, saying that this ongoing climate crisis, specifically the rising of sea levels given the context, will cause a setback in years of human development.
“The effects of rising sea levels will put at risk decades of human development progress in densely populated coastal zones which are home to one in seven people in the world,” he maintained.
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