By Gladstone Thurston
COLUMBUS ISLE, San Salvador, The Bahamas – Seventy-five San Salvadorians became the first Family Islanders to graduate from the Ministry of Tourism’s SMART programme during ceremonies Saturday night (December 8, 2007) at Club Med.
SMART, the acronym for Sales, Marketing and Royal Treatment, is offered to upgrade the quality of customer service of frontline hospitality workers.
Developed by Gloria Darling-Brown, the programme has been recognized and approved by the Bahamas Baptist College.
The Sal Salvador graduates were drawn from private and public sectors and received their certificates from Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. Lawrence ‘Larry’ Cartwright, Ministry of Tourism Permanent Secretary Archie Nairn, Administrator Jordon Ritchie and other officials.
In his keynote address, Mr Cartwright, the Member of Parliament for Long Island and Ragged Island, promoted linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy.
Increasing those linkages, he said “is vital to the proper development of the Bahamas.”
Tourism officials have reported “many times” of “a tremendous degree of leakage” in the Bahamian economy, he said.
“That simply means that, although we earn a lot of money,” he explained, “we are not able to keep the majority of it circulating within our country.
“A massive amount of money is sent back out the country almost immediately.”
He calculated that some 80 cents of every dollar earned though tourism is spent importing goods and services.
“Roughly, of the just under $2 billion per year we earn through tourism,” said Mr Cartwright, “almost $1.6 billion per year is spent on importing building materials, bringing in food supplies or purchasing decorative items. We are even importing a significant amount of the items that we sell to visitors as souvenirs.
“We must be able to improve. I am sure that we have the discipline, the ingenuity, and the work ethic to bring about a change for the better. After all $1.6 billion is a lot of money.”
There are hundreds of opportunities in which tourism and agriculture and fisheries can be linked, he said.
“If we were to identify these ways and effectively make those links, we would strengthen our economy significantly and greatly increase the sustainability of our business,” Mr Cartwright said.
“I expect that after long, hard work, we will have much reason to celebrate because we would have accomplished a goal,” he said.