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 Bahamas Commentary

2004-02-16 09:49:46

Too Many Negative Comments From Tourists

''Worst experience I have ever had on holiday and one of the most expensive! Glad to be going home.''

This was only one of hundreds of negative comments collected by the Ministry of Tourism's exit poll. They are the comments of disappointed visitors who shake the sand from their shoes and vow never to return to the Bahamas.

Comments ranging from from inferior service, overcharging, rudeness, objections to mandatory tips for indifferent service, gives the Ministry cause for concern as its "Negative Comments" file grows.

Discussing how important the repeat visitor is to any tourist destination, a friend of ours told us about a recent television show he had seen in the US.

He caught only part of the programme but when he heard "Bahamas", he stopped and listened.

It was a report on tourism. It was said that when a group of tourists left the Bahamas, 70 per cent of them told Bahamian pollsters that they had enjoyed their stay and would return.

However, when the TV station polled the same persons on their arrival at their US destination, only 2 per cent of them now said they would return for a Bahamas vacation.

Their main gripe? "Too expensive, not getting value for money, generally a lack of courtesy and poor service."

What had gone wrong between leaving Nassau and their arrival back home.

"Obviously what these tourists had done on the flight back home was talk among themselves and swap stories. And so by the time they got home over 60 per cent of them had changed their views on the Bahamas," was the only conclusion our friend coul;d come to.

Our friend, who had spent time in Hawaii, and several other areas in search of the perfect retirement destination, decided several years ago that the Bahamas was just what he was looking for.He bought a luxurious condominium for his winter home and every winter found him and his wife in the Bahamas.

He talked of the mistake tourism ministers make by believing that there is and abundance of tourists from which a new crop can be drawn every year. "But," he said, "the crop will not always be there. A country needs all the repeat visitors that it can generate, especially with the new tourism meccas coming on stream, such as Cuba, Mexico, Turks and Caicos, Aruba and others."

He described what happened to Hawaii's tourism business.

From the beginning, he said, Hawaii decided to cater only to the very wealthy tourist and investor. It did this to cut down by one-fifth on pollution, watse, water and other commodities needed to service the average tourist tarde. This way they could earn more money for their treasury.

"But this alldepended on the crop of wealthy tourists, mainly Japanese, continuing to be in plentiful supply. Unfortunately, the Japanese economy went sour and so did the Hawaiian economy - they have not been ale to attract the average tourist as they priced themselves out of the market."

At the height of the Hawaiian tourist boom, he said, 80,000 Canadians from Alberta alone visited Hawaii every year. But no more.

He believed that Kerzner International has the right mix - a freindly family-oriented theme at Atlantis, with the high-end market catered to at its exclusive One-&-Only Ocean Club.

Our friend came to the Bahamas when the country seemed in an upward motion to a better way of life. "But recently with government's new policies, it seems to have stopped dead in its tracks and it's slipping back to its old ways," he said.

"This country," he said sadly, "has the most wonderful natural assets, but the magnificent sea nad weather is just not enough. While no country can rival this for natural beauty and its waters, to make it work properly, the 'people's part' has now to be kicked in"

He finds that Bahamians are wary of accepting any advice from outsiders and the open door policy of some years ago "now seems to be closing."

In his opinion the Bahams could be one of the wealthiest small nations in the world, but is being crippled by mismangement, racism and an anti-foreign fixation.

The decision was hard, but this couple's perfect retirement home has come to an end. Our friend has sold his condominium, and in a few weeks time he and his wife leave the Bahamas for one of the best residential areas in Arizona, where they have rented one of the best villas, which he describes as twice the size and half the cost of what they had in Nassau.

They, too, found that, among other things, they did not get value for their money in the Bahamas.

Even the wealthy don't like to be taken advantage of - a lesson that Bahamians have yet to learn.

Editorial, The Tribune 

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