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Bahamahost Graduates Urged To Restore Tourism

Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe told the 2013 graduates of the Bahamahost Programme that all have a responsibility in restoring The Bahamas as the premier tourist destination. Staff of Bahamas Information Services – the government’s agency of record – was amongst the estimated 400 graduates who completed the highly acclaimed hospitality programme.

The graduating ceremony was held on December 5 at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road.

“This is the first time for Bahamas Information Services. Their role is to ensure that the entire nation is informed about everything that happens in The Bahamas. They are to ensure that every single Bahamian from Inagua to Bimini understands what is being done. I am very pleased that they are here,” said Mr. Wilchcombe, who is responsible for BIS.

Bahamahost is a training programme designed to familiarise participants with correct and accurate information about the country’s history, culture, geography, civic, economic and places of interests. It is also a customer-based programme which places emphasis on service excellence.

In his keynote address, Mr. Wilchcombe urged the graduates – a mixture of public service drivers, hoteliers and school students involved in the government’s Fresh Start Programme – to become agents of change.

“You graduates have to appreciate that we have to fix our problems. We have to put on The Bahamas flag again and wear it with pride. We have to talk about our country and to each other and to appreciate that we have to get the message across to every single man, woman and child in the country to let’s stop the nonsense. Whether it is family or not, tell them they are wrong,” Mr. Wilchcombe said.

In 2012, an estimated one billion tourists travelled spending more than $1.1 trillion with The Bahamas receiving almost $6 million of that.

The Bahamas was a leader in tourism, leading the way in the Caribbean but according to the minister, the country dropped the baton and allowed other countries such as Jamaica, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and other countries to catch up. “We allowed other countries like Mexico and analysts to talk about beaches and other negative things, particularly crime.”
Mr. Wilchcombe’s charge came as the world mourned the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was jailed for fighting against Apartheid in his country.

He also noted that the late former Bahamian prime minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, led the charge for the release of Mandela, at the 1985 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in The Bahamas. Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years, and became president in 1994.

“Nelson Mandela was freed because of what took place here in our country,” Mr. Wilchcombe said.

“One of the great leaders of our time. It causes us to appreciate that determination and sacrifice are the ultimate in determining the character of an individual.” He admonished the Bahamahost to reflect upon the fact that The Bahamas had a different fight.

“We had a quiet revolution and when the workers in 1942 decided to stand up against those persons who were seeking to pay workers brought in from America more than Bahamians who were working on the Oakes Field airport development, our people stood up and said no.

“That led to a demonstration, a riot and three Bahamians were killed. But the men marched to Bay Street – it was about peace,” he said.

Subsequently the country saw the emergence of unions in The Bahamas and workers standing together that led to the movement of a people of a country. That also led to liberation with Majority Rule in 1967 and then Independence (1973), Mr. Wilchcombe said.

To the National Anthem, which was sung at the beginning of the graduation ceremony, he said, “It is telling the Bahamian people to be proud. The world is watching. It has been watching then and it still is watching now. It is asking us to march on, together in unity, to a common loftier goal that we should all be in this together.”

And according to the minister, Bahamahost has the same objective. Not just in New Providence but throughout the country.
He then called on all Bahamians to understand that each has a commitment to the country, which has tourism as its number one industry.

“How do we look at ourselves and understand that we all have a commitment to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Yes, we are engaged in the number one industry which employs 60 percent of the Bahamian workforce and yes it is responsible for more than 65 percent of our GDP and yes it has been a performing industry.

“How do we understand though, that 50 years ago we took a solemn commitment to make this industry the best industry? Fifty years ago when countries in the Caribbean told us that tourism was not an industry; when they said it was servitude and how can a country, which got its independence from Great Britain, return to servitude.

“The truth is, we did and we proved to the world that tourism works. We proved to the world that this industry is a service industry, it is a trade that pays tremendous dividends, so much so that all the Caribbean now is focused on Tourism and is considered by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation as the number one industry in the world,” Mr. Wilchcombe said.
He said however that crime and its negative fallout went global and countries such as the United States began to warn its citizens about coming here and particularly going to places Over the Hill.

“It bothers me as minister of tourism that I have to listen to those comments because I hate hearing negative comments about my country. But at the same time I have to appreciate that Americans have to protect their citizens no matter where they are.
“When they talk about the murder count, robberies and assault possible on tourists, it should cause all of us stop and think. It should cause all us to recognise that we could fix this that it began with all of us. It is our responsibility,” he said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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