Campaigners Tell Disney: Show Us At Cruise Port ‘A Fair Deal’

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By NEIL HARTNELL

Editor-in-chief of the Tribune

[email protected]

Environmental activists challenge Disney Cruise Line to show how its Lighthouse Point project is “a fair deal for the Bahamas and the people of South Eleuthera” through the economic spinoffs that each side gets.

Bahamian groups that form the Stop Disney – Last Chance for Lighthouse Point campaign, in comments provided to the cruise line’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) consultation, called on the company to release the Oxford Economics’ much-vaunted study on the likelihood of the Project’s Economic Impact.

Noting that this study was conducted before the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the Bahamian and global economies, and the cruise ship industry in particular, the environmental coalition argued that no data has been produced. to substantiate the figures that were incorporated into the heads of the project. in agreement with the government.

While the EIA claims that Disney Cruise Line’s plan for the southern tip of Eleuthera “is prudently expected to deliver an increase of $ 805 million in the Bahamian gross domestic product (GDP) and an increase of 357,” $ 5 million in Bahamian government revenues’ over a 25-year period, the groups – as was also previously reported by this newspaper – said the numbers are much less impressive on an annual basis.

“This equates to an increase of only $ 32.2 million in GDP and $ 14.3 million in increase in Bahamian government revenue per year,” the environmental coalition said.

“Disney is investing up to $ 400 million in the development of Lighthouse Point. Each bed on a Disney ship represents approximately $ 237,000 in annual income. Multiplied by 3,500 passengers, Disney can expect sales of $ 830 million per ship per year.

“Disney needs to clarify exactly how fair this deal is to the Bahamas and the people of South Eleuthera. Disney has not released the Oxford Economic Survey 2018 which is supposed to support their claims of economic benefits,” added the groups.

“To our knowledge, the only information that has been released is a very brief summary in the form of a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the takeaways, but provides the underlying analysis (see appendix). Disney must publish the Oxford Economics study so that stakeholders can fully assess the validity of the economic benefits promised by Disney.

The affirmation of the “fair deal” has regularly appeared in the concerns and arguments of activists against a project to which they remain firmly opposed. Noting that Walt Disney’s 2019 annual revenues were $ 65.39 billion, they added, “In contrast, the communities of South Eleuthera are critically in need of economic growth, with unemployment rates as high as 70,000. at 80%.

“Lighthouse Point must be developed in a way that is both sustainable and fair. The EIA should consider whether, in fact, the proposed development for Lighthouse Point is, as it stands, a fair deal for the Bahamas and South Eleuthera.

As noted in the economics section above, with the information Disney has released to the public, it’s still unclear how the economic benefits to South Eleuthera communities will even compare to the company’s revenue from the port. In order to proceed responsibly and fairly, Disney needs to be explicit about how fair this deal is to the Bahamas and the people of South Eleuthera. “

Environmental activists also argued that GDP was not the right indicator to measure the impact of the project, as it likely included the income and expenses of passengers that benefited Disney Cruise Line and foreign suppliers rather than Bahamian-owned companies and their employees.

Arguing that gross national income would be a much better yardstick, they also questioned whether the Disney Cruise Line project would provide continuous access to Lighthouse Point for stopover visitors and independent tour guides.

“The point at the Lighthouse Point site is a very popular attraction for tourists visiting the island at Governor’s Harbor or even as far as Harbor Island,” the activists said. “These tourists travel frequently to the island to visit Lighthouse Point because of its pristine natural beauty. These tourists are a vital part of the income of the southern colony as they stop to pick up gasoline, refreshments, souvenirs, etc.

“The Disney EIA is to consider studies to examine how the development of the port will impact the likelihood of stay for tourists, who are known to contribute more to the Bahamian economy, visiting the site and contributing to local businesses by course. It should also describe the costs of the project to local businesses.

And they added: “The EIA and the limited information we received on the 2018 Oxford Economics study does not address the potential costs to local businesses. The EIA states that “the developer will provide all citizens and residents of the Bahamas with full access to property for non-commercial purposes.” This appears to exclude access to the area for independent local tour guides.

“Lighthouse Point is a major attraction for these businesses. During the public consultation of the Directorate of Planning and Environmental Protection (DEPP) on April 8, at the minute 01:10:40, the question of whether or not the local ornithologists and other guides environmentalists would be able to bring their own customers to the site [arose].

“Disney mentioned that they would hire Bahamians for their own shore excursions, but did not provide a clear answer as to whether local tour operators would be able to operate independently at the site,” the activists continued. .

“As it stands, Disney is free to determine how many tour operators they will collaborate with, if any, and there is currently no limit on the commission rate Disney can charge. The EIA should include more specific information about their intentions to interact with local businesses. It should also provide analysis on the impact of their own operations on independent local businesses. “

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