Marketing The Bahamas Incorrectly

Recent announcements by the government as to prospective future development projects leave us confused. The Bahamas is not and should never try to be Las Vegas, Italy, New Orleans, United States, or Europe. We lament the possibility that our tourism product of sun, sand, and sea may degrade into a hodgepodge of loosely associated theme park attractions scattered across the islands.

Bahamian culture is explicitly linked to the sea. Our coastline offers miles of white and pink sand beaches, wonderfully unspoiled. That natural unspoiled beauty has numerous varied manifestations across our various islands. Why then should The Bahamas continue to believe that something other is better?

Components of the 2013/2014 budget communication on Wednesday introduced ideas suggesting The Bahamas is not good enough and that we must import ideas from everywhere to change our tourism product – for example, the government’s desire to hold a pre-Lenten festival similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Trinidad. Is our Junkanoo on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day not acceptable for further investment and expansion? Junkanoo is Bahamian. It is insulting that the government feels the need to invest in a foreign-styled cultural event to increase foreign visitors. We should encourage a year-long entertainment industry that includes and culminates with Junkanoo.

Then on Friday, the Ministry of Tourism revealed that it is in discussions with European companies to bring an ‘Italian village’. Surely, the government must recognize the need to elaborate on this concept of ‘Italian villages’ in The Bahamas. Italy, renowned for its excellent food, wine and art, small quaint villages, and deep history, does not resemble The Bahamas. To fabricate and replicate such cultural distinctiveness here is indeed most perplexing and strengthens doubts that this government truly ‘Believes in The Bahamas’.

If the government is adamant about replicating so-called successful tourism products, it must understand at the very least the elements that make these festivals and places so alluring. Without gambling, shows and fancy hotels, Las Vegas would be just another dusty valley. Las Vegas fabricated a culture of material indulgence to attract investment to compensate for the lack of aesthetic surroundings and indigenous culture. New Orleans thrives because of its historic architecture in the French Quarter, Cajun culinary delights, and festivals deeply rooted in French bayou traditions.

The Bahamas is so consumed with fabricating itself as a tourist destination that it forgets to consider why people travel in the first place. We must build on our substance from within. We must encourage the entertainment and art industries, enable undersea exploration, catalogue and showcase Family Island history and reignite a national pride that makes us excited to showcase The Bahamas.

Editorial from The Freeport News