While the national discussion related to economic diversification and the possibility of moving away from a dependence on tourism persists, president and chief executive officer of the Nassau Airport Development Company and former director general of the Ministry of Tourism Vernice Walkine contends “there’s not going to be something better that comes along”.
Walkine, who made the comment while a guest on the TCL Group’s Cable Bahamas talk show “The Financial Voice” last week, said Bahamians have not yet maximized the country’s tourism product, while talking of replacing it.
She added that Bahamians seem to have a love/hate relationship with tourism, though it is something that the country has done for more than a century, and that it is a strong growth industry used by almost every country in the world.
“We have not maximized tourism, but we’re looking for alternatives,” said Walkine.
“It’s like we don’t want to be in the business of tourism.
“It is the largest growth industry in the world. Why would we in The Bahamas, with natural advantages, not take advantage of these unique features and benefits that we have?
“Bahamians have not wanted to own this industry because they considered it to be fickle. They considered it to be temporary…it’s something we’re doing until we wait for something else to come along, and that’s just not the case.
“We have been in the tourism business for well over a century and a half, and have actively developed it over a half century.”
Walkine said if the belief prevails that tourism is not here to stay, Bahamians will not want to own the industry.
Bolstering her point that there will not be a better industry to come along that will supply The Bahamas with the same kind of economic girth, Walkine said even the Middle East, as it contemplates its finite oil reserves, has turned to tourism.
Another former director general of tourism, Sir Baltron Bethel, who was also a guest on TCL’s program, said The Bahamas needs to begin delivering value for money in its tourism product in order to remain competitive in the region.
He also suggested that it is time for major hotels and promotion boards to become the primary purveyors of marketing for The Bahamas using the levies that they collect, while the Ministry of Tourism’s primary focus becomes “tourism policy, public relations, product enhancement, licensing, quality control, and environmental development”.