Royal Caribbean Group Launches Funding Program for Businesses in The Bahamas

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The Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre and Royal Caribbean Group have pooled resources launching the Royal Caribbean Programme, which will administer $500,000 in funding and training opportunities to support small businesses in the tourism sector on New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands, according to a press release. 

Royal Caribbean Group provided $250,000 in overall funding. That amount will be matched by the Access Accelerator, for a total of $500,000.

Existing businesses can apply for up to $15,000, disbursed as a combination of a 50 percent loan and 50 percent 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 between $250,001 to $500,000. This group can apply for funding up to $10,000. Group C caters to businesses with annual sales between $500,001 to $1,000,000, allowing for funding up to $15,000.

The program is unique to the Access Accelerator because it will continue to fund itself over time. As businesses pay back their loans, the funds will finance other businesses that apply through the program.

According to Josh Carroll, vice president, Destination Development, Royal Caribbean Group, the decision to create this initiative stems from the organization's desire to see The Bahamas recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Getting back on your feet is easier when someone has extended a hand to help pull you up,” said Carroll. “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. This program and the leadership of the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre provides the jump-start so many will need to recover.”

Samantha L. Rolle, director of external relations at the Access Accelerator, stated that the initiative with Royal Caribbean Group is another example of how the private sector is a significant key to boosting and sustaining the small business sector. Rolle said, "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. 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. The more industries that small businesses can operate in, the better it is for the economy."

She continued, "The only way that we can continue to support the small business sector in a significant way is through partnerships with members of the private sector. 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."

Among its list of eligibility standards and criteria, the program 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 Program is open and will approve businesses bi-monthly until funding is exhausted. The program will resume when funding is replenished. 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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