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Top Tourism Official Sounds Warning: The Nassau Guardian
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Page 1 of 1Total of 1 messages
Posted by:Aug 19th 2003, 02:25:22 pm
chapelTop Tourism Official Sounds Warning

Rogan M. Smith

"Visitors tell us that that we are one of the dirtiest destinations they have seen and not at all what they expected. They cite our streets and verges as full of litter, our buildings as badly kept or maintained, our public facilities as filthy and so on." -- Vernice Walkine, Ministry of Tourism

It is regarded as a fickle industry, one that can suffer falloff at any time. In the face of the recent war in Iraq and the devastating fallout that The Bahamas' tourism sector experienced following September 11 2001, there has been an even greater call to provide quality service.

Now a key tourism official is highlighting the major challenges that the tourism industry faces, while giving the heads up on ways for The Bahamas to maintain its competitive edge.

Deputy Director General in the Ministry of Tourism, Vernice Walkine said Friday that the country's service and experience desperately need fixing.

More than two in every five visitors have said that they will not return to The Bahamas and do not intend to recommend this destination to their family and friends, she said.

Ms. Walkine added that if investors feel that operating in The Bahamas is too difficult, they would not bother to do business here.

"The fact of the matter is we've been around as a destination long enough that nobody should have to tell any of us about service," she said.

"Visitors tell us that that we are one of the dirtiest destinations they have seen and not at all what they expected. They cite our streets and verges as full of litter, our buildings as badly kept or maintained, our public facilities as filthy and so on."

Ms. Walkine said in order to build a strong tourism product there has to be better cooperation between the private and public sectors. She said there needs to be an atmosphere created for success.

"A strong private sector provides and has the potential to provide more in delivering those objectives than any other segment of tourism," she said. "We have found that the working relationship between the private and public sectors is crucial to the short, medium and long-term success of tourism."

Ms. Walkine added that, "Both the public and private sectors should be working from the same plan even though both sides might have different emphasis. In the absence of such a coherent plan there is a considerable waste of resources."

She said investors must be able to make money and be able to do so without frustration and corruption. Ms. Walkine said if they cannot, they will pass the word onto other investors and they too will stay away no matter how favourable the tax and incentive scheme.

But even as many tourists report dissatisfaction with the local tourism industry, local officials are encouraged by the most recent tourism figures.

As reported by the Journal recently, tourism figures for the first part of 2003 indicate a modest increase in the nation's number one industry between January and March, despite the fear of travel by US-based tourists induced by the war in Iraq, and an economic slowdown affecting numerous countries around the world, officials revealed recently.

The latest figures from the Central Bank of The Bahamas reveal a growth of 1.1 percent in the number of visitors to the country, a total of 1,229,641 tourists traveling to The Bahamas in the first quarter of this year.

"Much of what happens in The Bahamas is obviously a reflection of what is happening in the US economy and a number of things are beginning to bounce back from the bottom," Director General of Tourism Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said in an earlier interview with the Journal.

"I think it's a case where a lot more people are feeling more comfortable traveling again and we are delighted to see that people are not just simply sticking to domestic travel in the United States, but are beginning to travel offshore and when they do so we are certainly one of the first choices," Mr. Vanderpool-Wallace said.

The Central Bank Quarterly Economic Review for March 2003 also showed a 9.8 percent jump in hotel room revenues for the first two months of the year compared to 2002 levels.

The upturn comprised of a 9.5 percent increase in the average nightly room rate to $175.08, and a 0.3 percent increase in the volume of visitor nights sold.

"As regards the March performance, feedback from the hotel industry suggests that although room night sales declined during the immediate period surrounding the war in Iraq, pricing was still appreciated, thereby limiting the total extent of expenditure loss," the report continued.

The reports from the tourism sector were not entirely positive, however.

The Director General pointed out that although the numbers for the first quarter of 2003 indicate an increasing trend over 2002 levels, the statistics do not necessarily represent growth in the industry.

"The business is up in part because last year, after the effects of September 11, 2001, business had plummeted significantly, so there is some returning to normalcy or returning to the average," he said.

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