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 Bahamas Tourism

2005-10-21 15:14:12

People-To-People Programme Undergoes Changes

The changes involve recruiting visitors as international ambassadors, implementing a $35 tourist participation fee and allowing the visitor to actually live with their hosts.

Bahamas tourism officials have launched new plans to raise the country's profile in the travel and leisure market through a local programme that puts visitors in touch with authentic Bahamian experiences.

The new measures that the Director General of Tourism Vernice Walkine announced this week are intended to enhance the People-To-People programme which pairs visitors with Bahamian citizens who introduce them to the country's customs and culture.

The changes involve recruiting visitors as international ambassadors for the programme, implementing a $35 tourist participation fee and adding the element of allowing the visitor to actually live with their hosts, which in the past was not a formal part of the plan.

"Tour operators, ground handlers and retailers will now have the opportunity to earn $10 commission for each People-to-People Experience booked. It is our objective to increase revenue for our travel partners, increase visitor participation in the programme and decrease the probability of visitor cancellation after the experience has been coordinated," Ms. Walkine said.

Volunteers will also undergo additional training.

The programme's enhancements are to mark its 30th anniversary. People-to-People was launched in Nassau in 1975 by former Minister of Tourism Sir Clement Maynard.

"This unique programme eceeds simple enjoyment. It gives visitors a real taste of Bahamian hospitality," Ms. Walkine said.

"It enhances appreciation of our cultural heritage, traditions and fosters the spirit of friendship. More than anything, it allows us to share that heritage and those traditions with people who can appreciate all the good things that make us Bahamian."

Marketing initiatives to promote the People-to-People experience locally and internationally include providing current and interactive information on, brochure distribution through Bahamas Tourist Offices throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and advertisements in travel publications.

Senior Manager of the programme, Janet Cuffie, was enthused about the programme's success.

"I am proud to be a part of such a positive programme," she said.

"Knowing that many friendships have been forged between Bahamians and visitors over the years and those relationships have converted hundreds of leisure vacationers into return visits, certainly speaks volumes for the success of the programme.

It is intended that the international ambassadors will be invited to many of the events that are presented overseas by the Bahamas Tourist Offices.

Nine years after the programme was created, People-to-People had spread to Abaco, Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama Island, and San Salvador.

Last year, visitors to The Bahamas surpassed the five million mark.

The latest statistics from the Central Bank of The Bahamas showed that up to August, there was a 6.9% decline in arrivals to 3,743,558 for the entire Bahamas, with air arrivals down by 1.9% and sea by 9.1%, compared to the same period in 2004.

Business on Grand Bahama was identified as the particular weakness. The island's tourism plant was most affected by hurricanes Frances and Jeanne last year. It left overall arrivals contracting by 25.6%, with double digit declines in both air (34.5%) and sea (20.1%) visitors.

Meantime, the period January to August reflect an 8.8 percent reduction in arrivals to the Family Islands, with declines in air and sea visitors of 1.4% and 10.3%, respectively.

Other overall developments continued to be supported by the positive performance in New Providence, where the 8.5% hike in air arrivals offset the 5.3% fall-off in sea arrivals for a relatively unchanged position.

Additionally for the first eight months of the year, data showed that total room revenue for New Providence rose by an estimated 9.4%, buoyed by both higher average daily room rates (1.1%) and occupancy levels (4.1%).

By: Tameka Lundy, The Bahama Journal

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