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Hepburn: Bahamas should capitalize more on heritage tourism potential

The Bahamas is being encouraged to capitalize on heritage tourism, an industry that could provide a revenue boost for the country.President of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) Dr. Davidson Hepburn said The Bahamas should have taken advantage of its potential as a heritage tourism destination a long time ago.

“The Bahamas should be at the forefront of heritage tourism, yet sadly we are not a signatory to the heritage convention,” Hepburn said. “This is more important than ever because recently introduced a site where you are able to click on links to UNESCO heritage sites. International travelers can book directly from those links, but to be listed as a recognized heritage site, you must be a signatory to the UNESCO heritage convention.

“So while we have fabulous heritage sites, they are not getting the exposure of other lesser(jurisdictions)because they are taking advantage of TripAdvisor’s recognition of the growing interest in heritage tourism, while The Bahamas is not. The website is attracting huge attention.”

The cultural heritage travel niche is on the rise in various countries and can be a major contributor to an economy like The Bahamas, which depends heavily on tourism for its revenue. By reviving and promoting history as an important marketing tool to attract travelers with a special interest in heritage, the benefits can be significant.

Hepburn, who was elected president of UNESCO in 2009, said that heritage tourism could facilitate growth in the tourism sector if promoted consistently and effectively.

“The Bahamas has so many heritage sites, both tangible and intangible–the Blue Holes of Abaco and Andros, the world’s 3rd largest Great Barrier Reef, the Hermitage at Mt. Alvernia in Cat Island, the cultural heritage of Bahamian food, music, Junkanoo and yet we run the risk now of not only failing to benefit from financial grants and technical assistance, but actually falling behind other countries who are benefitting from free advertising on by means of their participation in the international UNESCO arena of documented sites,” he said.

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