Despite rapid and sweeping developments in technology that have greatly decreased the need for business travel, The Bahamas remains an appealing offshore business site because of its relative proximity to North America and Europe, and its relative ease of access to key international centers of finance. With its capital city Nassau served by direct flights to and from global business destinations like New York, Miami, London and Toronto, doing business in The Bahamas is a breeze for international traders, investors, and businessmen.
Why Start a Business in The Bahamas?
If you are trying to decide whether to start a business in The Bahamas or not, here are a few things that may help you make your decision.
Through the years, the Bahamas government has created an appealing climate for investment and facilitated the comfort and efficiency of doing business in the islands of Bahamas. With a stable government and economy, coupled with a professional and competitively skilled workforce, modern and efficient infrastructure, nearness to strategic markets, and sound investment policy, this Commonwealth country without a doubt provides an ideal investment model.
The Bahamian economy is very much open to foreign direct investment, as demonstrated by the two pillars of its economy: tourism and offshore financial services. For instance, following the recent global economic crisis, much of the economic rebounding of the country is due to private sector and foreign direct investment pump-priming initiatives in the tourism industry.
Tourism is the industry that breathes fire into The Bahamas. The industry accounts for about 60 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The Bahamas has an annual traffic of over 4 million visitors. Currently, close to 50 percent of the jobs in the Bahamas are provided by the tourism industry. The tourism ministry is forecasting that the tourism industry will account for as much as 70 percent of jobs by the end of the decade. In recent years, offshore medical centers and medical tourism businesses have also begun to flourish in The Bahamas – undoubtedly as an offshoot of its already booming tourism industry.
In a distant second place to tourism is the banking and finance industry. It represents around one-fifth of the Gross Domestic Product of the Bahamian economy. The finance industry provides an estimated 4,500 jobs for the Bahamian populace. In 2011, it was reported that more than 350 banks and trust companies (duly licensed by the Central Bank of The Bahamas) operate in the country.
Ship registration, meanwhile, ranks third in top Bahamian industries. The Bahamas Ship Registry, which prides itself as one of the largest fleets in the world, registers a gross tonnage of more than 52 million tonnes. This industry is controlled by the Bahamas Merchant Shipping Act.
The Bahamas has become a center for the maritime industry thanks in part to its huge oil storage facilities; they are among the largest in the world. Plus, its two main harbors (Nassau and Freeport) have technologically advanced facilities.
Other notable industries in this tropical country include agricultural and marine resources, limestone processing, fragrance and chemical manufacturing, ship repair, and film as well as television production. Among the top exports of The Bahamas are vegetables, fruits, crawfish, salt, crude oil, and rum.
Advantages of doing business in Bahamas:
Sound foreign direct investment and incentives policies crafted and implemented by the Bahamas government are the major contributors to the country’s rosy business climate. Business incentives include allowing access to government owned land, waived customs duties, and border tax holidays on raw materials as well as building and equipment supplies, real property tax exemptions, and zero restrictions on current account transactions as well as profits repatriation.
A newly approved Business License Act, which streamlines the process of applying for and operating a business, as well as a multimillion program for simplifying and computerizing government services are also geared to attract more business ventures in The Bahamas.
In today’s business world, everyone knows that an excellent telecommunications highway is indispensable for businesses to operate and thrive. With the islands’ state of the art telecommunications services and facilities – including high speed internet access linked to mainland US through fiber optic submarine cables – The Bahamas is truly on the global map of leading areas for the setting up of businesses, especially international business enterprises.
Another advantage of doing business in The Bahamas is the local population’s high literacy and expertise levels. Of the total adult population in the country, 95.5% are considered literate. Much of the local young population also has tertiary level degrees and certifications from local and international higher education institutions.
What is the code of behavior when doing business in Bahamas? Anyone doing business in Bahamas is expected to observe the following code of behavior:
- Unless you have been given permission, never call your business partner using his first name; use his academic title and surname instead.
- Handle business cards with respect. When a Bahamian hands his business card to you, remember NOT to bend it or scribble on it.
- Your business partner may be late, but you are expected to be punctual.
- Remember that the negotiation style in the Bahamas is hierarchical in nature. So, decisions may have been made already before your meeting.
- Topics in business meetings are not mostly business related. You can expect to talk a lot about things other than business during your meetings in The Bahamas.