The tourism industry in the Bahamas needs a facelift if it is to remain the number one visitor destination in the region, according to Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.
While addressing the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce’s Business Education and Development Seminar on Tuesday, Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said tourists are tired of the same old things when they visit The Bahamas and want new experiences.
“There are more James Bond films that have been created here in The Bahamas in part or in whole than any other place in the world,” he said.
“But go and try to find a James Bond tour where people can go and see the actual locations and all the things that are being done. Part of the reason that the people who come here on cruise ships do not get off the cruise ships is because the same tours they got offered the last time they were here are the same tours offered today.”
He said statistics show that 51 percent of cruise visitors to the Bahamas have visited the destination before and many of them refuse to come off the ship because they believe nothing in Nassau is new.
Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace also suggested that The Bahamas should take advantage of its international reputation as a leader in tourism and financial services and use seminars and training opportunities to draw foreign professionals in these fields to The Bahamas.
“I find it amazing. Why aren’t we making sure that every single day we invite people in the theatres in Cable Beach or at Paradise Island to talk to them about what is available and what is being offered in financial services?” he asked.
He also said that health and wellness tourism would be a great benefit to the tourism sector.
“If you look at the migration of the population in the US toward the south it is clear that the people are saying every day ‘we want more sun’ and that’s what they are saying because they think that it is a more health giving experience,” Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said. “So the opportunity to develop health and wellness tourism is very substantial.”
He said educational tourism would be a viable consideration in diversifying the industry and building The Bahamas’ reputation as an academic centre.
Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace added that people all around the world have already heard of the things The Bahamas has to offer. However, he said Bahamians must now provide the opportunities for them to experience them while they are in the country.
He said the first priority must be given to marketing in areas nearest to The Bahamas before targeting other regions in the world. Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said the best way for The Bahamas to market its tourism product is to focus on its ‘clusters.’
“The Bahamas just happens to have a global reputation in the area of tourism and the thing you have to do is figure out a way to make your strengths stronger,” he said.
The CTO secretary general said if The Bahamas were to focus its tourism product around the things that have brought international acclaim to the nation it would attract thousands of people who are interested in those areas and become an international ‘cluster’ for that area similar to how Hollywood has become a cluster for actors and film-makers.
Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said tourism is much more than Bahamians think it is, adding that it is not a career or an industry, but rather an economic sector.
“When you find yourself in a situation where the lawyer is advising some developer to come and take a look at some piece of property that they are thinking of putting some item on, that lawyer is in the tourism industry,” he said.
Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said it is important for Bahamians to begin to see tourism from this view because when the sector is looked upon in this way “something magical happens.”
He said when professionals from different arenas can use their skills to sharpen the tourism industry and personally benefit from their work it is then that tourism would have taken on a new face and provided new opportunities.
The Business Education and Development Seminar is a yearly event hosted by the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce.
According to President of the Chamber of Commerce Dionisio D’Aguilar, this year’s seminar was attended by more young people than ever before due to the Ministry of Youth’s Self Starters Programme.
The programme provides grants to young entrepreneurs.
According to Mr. D’Aguilar, more than 10 young entrepreneurs who have applied for assistance in the programme attended the event.