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Posted by:Aug 26th 2005, 08:58:34 am
Fig Tree News TeamVisitors love Briland
Island's uniqueness appeals to tourists

By BARRY WILLIAMS, Guardian Staff Reporter

HARBOUR ISLAND, BAHAMAS- While most of the energy is being directed toward boosting tourism in Nassau and Freeport, Harbour Island is holding its own as the number one destination in the Caribbean region including the Bahamas and Bermuda.

Travel and Leisure, the popular U.S. tourist travel magazine, conducted a survey recently and travellers around the globe voted the picturesque, pristine, people-oriented island as a popular destination of choice. The win represents a first for Harbour Island, and indeed the entire Bahamas.

" For the past ten years we have asked our readers to participate in a survey where they rate every aspect of the travel experience (including destinations, hotels, airlines) and Harbour Island was named number one in the [region]," said Nathan Lump, Features Director of Travel and Leisure magazine. Mr Lump was also in Harbour Island on Monday evening to present the award received by Alexander Flowers, District Administrator on the island, during celebrations for its recognition.

The award might suggest that travellers are looking for a "different experience" from the more typical all-inclusive Nassau hotels, with architectural structures and features that masquerade an island get-away.

General Manager of Pink Sands resort in Harbour Island, Clemens von Merveldt, referred to this as "junk tourism". By this he means visitors get to experience paradise, but with all the familiar amenities offered in their homeland.

Many of Harbour Island's resort destinations are plump in the middle of natural settings- or for such a small island, appropriately located on the outskirts of the enchanting beaches.

Visitors to the island get an all natural experience: Many hotel rooms are filled with the sounds of birds, beaches and breezes instead of televisions; visitors mingle with the close-knit community of Harbour Islanders which adds a personal touch; the island is virtually crime-free and there are none of those mass-produced meals- and no McDonalds. Perhaps it's just the preference of the more upscale tourist.

"It's always interesting for me to see how the reader's preferences change over time. We see a lot of responses for places that are smaller and more intimate and that have a feeling of authenticity," Mr Lump said of some of the magazine's one million subscribers, made up of mostly affluent American travellers. "Harbour Island fits into the global trend we have seen in the results," he added.

However, the results also indicated that the entire region is competitive, as several Caribbean destinations have received the reward. Vernice Walkine, Director General of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourism (MOT), indicated last week that the rest of the Caribbean is "catching up and in some cases taking over" The Bahamas. Given this trend, the MOT outlined strategies to attract more visitors to The Bahamas, although Ms Walkine assured her audience that this chain of islands has a competitive advantage over most of the neighboring destinations. Harbour Island's award might suggest that.

Ms Walkine also said that the award was significant because of the way in which Harbour Island won it. "It says to Harbour Island that they've been doing something right because this is an independent reader survey. It's not the magazine endorsing Harbour Island. This is their readers saying, 'We like Harbour Island best out of all the islands in this region," said Ms Walkine.

The Director General of Tourism also indicated that the award was a yardstick measure of how successful some of the MOT's promotion strategies have been so far.

Harbour Island, the number one, pink-sand, get-away destination could serve as an example to other Bahama Islands as a true leader would. " When you consider the size of Harbour Island compared to 15 other islands in The Bahamas, and then some 40+ islands in the Caribbean, there is something going on in Harbour Island that could be a model for the rest of The Bahamas. It gives us a template for the rest of the islands of The Bahamas," declared Ms Walkine.

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