Culture Minister Stresses Importance of a Uniquely Bahamian Tourism Product

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By ERIC ROSE

NASSAU, Bahamas –
Although The Bahamas has “fine” international partners and developers, Bahamians must understand the important role they play in the development of the country’s tourism product, Minister of State for Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard said Monday evening.

“We still have to appreciate what is special about The Bahamas,” Minister Maynard said at the National Tourism Week Tourism Town Meeting on January 28. “It has to be more than the fine hotel properties, the sun, sand and sea.”

For example, he noted, The Bahamas has a rich history that is also intertwined with that of other countries, particularly the United States.

Minister Maynard said these historical linkages should be used in selling the Bahamian tourism product.

“The Bahamas played a vital role in their (US) Independence,” he pointed out. “We have places in The Bahamas still in tact, historical sites that tie directly to their struggle for Independence.”

He pointed out that American tourists would gladly want to visit such sites and that could be a built-in market for future ventures.

“But we let bushes grow around them and we just pay no attention because we do not realise that that is a diamond-in-the-rough,” Minister Maynard said.

“We could go on and on listing the historical things that are significant to our ‘Neighbours in the North’ and we would find that there are significant sites, places, traditions, even, that tie directly to their history and we are not taking advantage of it,” he added.

Minister Maynard said The Bahamas has a rich heritage and there are several unique aspects to how its citizens socialise and embrace traditions that would attract visitors.

He emphasized that The Bahamas also has a rich and unique culture and that this uniqueness must be appreciated for what it does to the tourism product.

“When people travel from far distances, pay a lot of money to visit a foreign country, they expect it to be foreign,” Minister Maynard said.

“I’m sure they are happy to see that there is a McDonald’s and a Burger King here, because it something they can relate to; but they would be happier to taste the cracked conch or the fried fish or the conch salad or the things that we enjoy as Bahamians.”

Minister Maynard emphasized meantime that Bahamian musicians and artists must be highlighted, adding that Bahamians must first enjoy what The Bahamas has to offer even more than the tourists so that there could be a true appreciation of what there is to offer.

“Now we cannot blame the Ministry of Tourism.  We cannot blame the Government.  We have to blame ourselves,” Minister Maynard said.

“We are in the tourism business,” he noted. “We – not the Government, not the Ministry of Tourism, but the Bahamian people everywhere.  It does not matter where you work, the fact is that you are a part of the business; so you have to play your role in that business.  Your community needs to play a role in that business”

“The real enhancement has to start with the Bahamian society,” Minister Maynard added.  We have to realise what business we are in. That is where culture, heritage and history comes into our tourism product.”