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Bahamas' Access Accelerator, Royal Caribbean team to help small businesses

The Bahamas' Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre and Royal Caribbean Group are pooling resources to support small tourism businesses.

The Royal Caribbean Programme is administering $500,000 in funding and training opportunities on New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands.

Access Accelerator matched Royal Caribbean's $250,000 to make the $500,000 total.

Access Accelerator involves a tripartite arrangement among the Bahamas government, through the Ministry of Finance, the University of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation. 

Funding up to $15,000, half loan, half grant

Existing businesses can apply for up to $15,000, disbursed as a combination of a 50% loan and 50% grant. The funding structure is divided into three groups. Group A is for businesses with annual sales of less than $250,000, allowing companies to request funding up to $5,000. Group B is for entities with annual sales of $250,001 to $500,000. This group can apply for funding up to $10,000. Group C caters to businesses with annual sales of $500,001 to $1m, allowing for funding up to $15,000.

Access Accelerator said the programme will continue to fund itself over time. As businesses pay back their loans, the funds will finance other businesses that apply through the programme.

According to Josh Carroll, VP destination development, Royal Caribbean Group's decision to create this initiative stems from the desire to see the Bahamas recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebuilding a tourism-dependent economy

'Getting back on your feet is easier when someone has extended a hand to help pull you up,' Carroll said. 'We wanted to provide the resources to empower small businesses to be self-sufficient and sustainable over the long term and rebuild a tourism-dependent economy.'

Samantha Rolle, director of external relations at the Access Accelerator, said the initiative exemplifies how the private sector is significant to boosting and sustaining the small business sector.

'The partnership with Royal Caribbean is extremely exciting as it caters to a sector that needs assistance due to all that has transpired because of the COVID-19 pandemic,' she said. 'As an organization, we have been pushing small business owners and entrepreneurs to enter and build up industries such as agriculture, fishing, farming, technology and sustainability. However, it is important to get small businesses that cater to the tourism industry back in operation as many businesses fall in that area.'

Rolle continued: 'Royal Caribbean evaluated the needs of small businesses and has done a great job at offering unique ways to assist but also opportunities for training and expansion.'

Mandatory training

Among its list of eligibility standards and criteria, the programme requires the completion of mandatory training. The training covers sessions such as Hospitality and Entrepreneurship, Eco-friendly Products and Services, Production/Tour Scheduling, Quality Controls, Liability Insurance, Pricing Strategies, Forecasting, Brand Identity, Digital Marketing and Export Readiness.

The Royal Caribbean Programme will approve businesses bi-monthly until funding is exhausted. The programme will resume when funding is replenished.

Adjudication Committee

To ensure a transparent and fair approval process, an Adjudication Committee will review applications. The committee comprises representatives from the Access Accelerator, Royal Caribbean Group, Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers' Confederation, Bahamas Development Bank, Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association, Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund Ltd., the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Bahamas.

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