Paradise Island is not representative of The Bahamas. It is a playground for tourists conveniently separated from New Providence by a toll bridge. Once over the bridge, tourists have few reasons to venture back to the mainland to mingle with the local populous. The Ministry of Tourism would do well to market the other 699 islands that certainly offer a more Bahamian experience.
And at the cost of $15 million, Bahamian taxpayers are looking for tourist dollars to extend beyond Paradise Island. We are intrigued by this “aggressive” campaign that intends to be a game changer. Perhaps, an advertising campaign that includes the Family Islands is considered revolutionary, albeit well over due.
With Baha Mar set to open in late 2014, there is no question that New Providence needs to increase airlift while attracting more visitors. But New Providence has saturated the North American market. The New York tri-state area is bored of the seemingly regurgitated advertisements for Paradise Island. If life is “Better in The Bahamas” then show the world The Bahamas, not an artificial tropical domain.
Many in The Bahamas have a perverted view that we lack natural resources, when quite to the contrary our waters are the envy to many. We can arrogantly boast that we have the best beaches with an endless expanse of clear turquoise waters. Why settle for the crowded beaches of New Providence, when a private beach oasis in the Exuma cays awaits?
Harbour Island, Green Turtle Cay and Hope Town draw return visitors year after year with scant international advertising. Set amidst quaint homes, easy to access beaches and welcoming Bahamians, our oldest settlements attract tourists, and more importantly second homeowners, who relish old-world charm and dine on exquisite fare.
The Bahamas is a boater’s dream. The Sea of Abaco provides countless miles of protection from the Atlantic; the Exumas are a beach lover’s playground; Bimini is a mere 50 miles from Florida, and the fishing is phenomenal. Yet, our prospective audience is subjected to countless images of casinos, pools and crowded beaches when we have so much more to offer.
Few Bahamians have been privy to the expansive salt flats and fantastic birding of Inagua or the caves of Crooked Island. With the majority of the Bahamian population living in New Providence, it is hardly surprising that advertising is Nassau-centric. For a moment let’s forget the tourists and cater to Bahamians as tourists – a novel idea indeed.
If we are to seek long-term gains in tourism we must diversify our offerings and revitalize once prominent settlements like Governor’s Harbour and Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera. We must give a reason for our visitors to come back again and again, to experience the vast diversity of places that exist in The Bahamas.
As Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said: “We’ve tried to run tourism with the same game plan that we had 40 years ago and that doesn’t work. The world has changed and we have to change with it.”
For all the promises of change, the Ministry of Tourism may well surprise us with a revolutionary advertising campaign. With many Nassuvians yearning to return to the Family Islands, advertising outside the capital may generate the excitement needed to return home.
Editorial from the Nassau Guardian