In a year of significant change in Caribbean tourism, the naming of Joy Jibrilu as CEO of the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board (NPIPB) ranks among the most notable developments.
Assuming the position following the retirement of Fred Lounsberry, who served as the NIPIPB’s CEO since 2005, Jibrilu is the first woman and the first Bahamas native to hold the position.
A consortium of 18 hotels in Nassau’s Cable Beach and Paradise Island districts, the group’s members range from eight-room, family-run guesthouses up to mega-resorts accommodating thousands of guests.
NPIPB works closely with tour operators, strategic partners and travel marketing organizations to promote Bahamas travel. NPIPB also coordinates travel agent training, tactical advertising and public relations activity.
Jibrilu has served as the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism’s director general since May 2014 after serving as director of investments in the Bahamas prime minister’s Investment Authority office since July 2008.
Jibrilu brings significant Bahamas tourism and public-sector experience to her new role. She previously served in the Bahamas’ Ministry of Finance as a legal advisor with primary responsibility for international agreements after starting with the agency as an independent consultant.
An attorney by profession, Jibrilu is certified by the English and Bahamian bars. She discussed her plans with TravelPulse at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Conference in Puerto Rico last week.
TP: How do you feel about taking on this very different role compared with your previous position?
JJ: I think it’s just a really exciting opportunity coming out of the public sector. I’ve been exposed to the public sector in tourism and in the investment space. It has nothing to do with me, it’s just the privileged opportunity I’ve had. But [the exposure] will be an asset, because I bring all of that experience and knowledge with me.
TP: Will your plans take NPIPB in a new direction compared with the recent past?
JJ: Well Fred has done a great job. For 17 years we worked closely together, so a lot of the work that he was doing we would have shared – marketing plans, policy, all the policy matters – we would have discussed. [NPIPB] would have come through me to help navigate the space from a government standpoint. So I’m just privileged again to have that knowledge.
TP: What makes you different from past NPIPB leadership?
JJ: Automatically, I’m the first woman in this office and the first Bahamian. So my outlook is a little different. I was approached with this opportunity so I was able to just [say] ‘Look, this would be my vision.’ There was immediate buy-in and acceptance, and it came from the point that Oh my gosh why didn’t we why think of trying that?
TP: What changes do you plan to make initially?
JJ: So straight away, the head office is located in Fort Lauderdale, yet [the organization] is the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board. We will always have a presence in the United States and in Fort Lauderdale, but we are moving the headquarters to Nassau. It’s logical. Also buying Bahamian. For example, previously the headquarters has used a firm in Portland, Oregon for printing. So buying local is the next [change].
TP: What else are you planning?
JJ: The second one is educating the Bahamian public about what the Nassau Paradise Promotion Bureau is and does, because it has always operated out of Fort Lauderdale and is an outward-facing organization.
TP: How will your organization address this?
JJ: [Via] a campaign of educating the public and creating an awareness [and] bringing the headquarters home. There’s a sense of pride attached to it that has broadened our support within the community.
TP: Are you eyeing other new NIPB initiatives?
JJ: There’s a lot I have in my six-month plan and in my 12-month plan. I don’t want to reveal too much and be premature, but I think that there’s a lot more we can do. Much responsibility has been given to the NPIPB and I want to make sure we are giving back giving to this industry that has supported all of us.
TP: Can you share information on the programs you’re considering?
JJ: I’m straight away talking about mentoring, bringing up the future [leaders] into the industry so they might say, ‘I could do that one day.’
TP: Do you envision NIPB adopting a broader focus?
JJ: It’s about the destination. NIPB represents hotels, but for most people who visit have to get to Paradise Island when they leave the airport, and they’ve got to go through downtown Bay Street. So I’m teasing some of the things I have in mind.
TP: Are you encouraged with the response to your appointment?
JJ: I’m just so pleased everyone can get on board and with that, I see a greater level of partnership with the destination for the enhancement of the destination. It not only benefits Nassau Paradise Island promotion board but all of Nassau and The Bahamas.
TP: How are Bahamas hotels and resorts currently faring?
JJ: Tourism is the most resilient industry, we’ve heard that message over and over. And look at how it’s recovered and rebounded! It didn’t matter if it was an Atlantis or a Baha Mar, all of our properties have recovered. All of [the properties] are coming out of this strong. And 2023 is forecast to be even stronger.
TP: How was the tourism-reliant Bahamas able to survive the pandemic’s closures?
JJ: What was great was the public and private sector coming together and understanding the importance of tourism. They recognized we have to be ready for recovery. I’ve spoken about [The Bahamas’] tourism readiness recovery plan in which I was heavily involved. We had 100 partners contribute to the plan and my most proud moment as when the opposition held it up and said, ‘This is one recovery plan looks like.’