Executive blasts Bahamian’s love/hate relationship with industry
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamians have long maintained a “love/hate” relationship with the tourism sector and continue to disrespect it while seeking out alternative industries, a former Tourism Director General has stated.
Vernice Walkine, the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) chief executive and former Tourism director general, argued that the tourism industry has served The Bahamas well, and has proven to be the most ‘resilient’ industry despite being adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walkine was a guest at the Financial Voice forum.
She further argued that Bahamians have not held greater ownership in the sector because it has been deemed to be ‘fickle’, adding the country has yet to fully maximize on the sector’s benefits.
“Bahamians have a love/hate relationship with tourism,” she said.
“It’s that thing we do but we don’t enjoy doing it. We have not maximized on tourism but we are looking for alternatives, as if we don’t want to be in the industry. It’s the largest growth industry in the world.
“Why would we who have a natural advantage not take advantage of those unique features and benefits that we have. Bahamians for a long time have not wanted to own this industry because they considered it to be fickle, temporary, something we are doing while we wait for something else,” said Walkine.
Walkine noted that the country has actively developed the tourism industry for decades.
“Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that we are going to anytime in our lifetime replace tourism,” she continued.
“We need to be sensible about this and think about how we strip tourism down to the lowest common denominator so we can understand how we grow our share of what the tourism industry can produce. Tourism continues to demonstrate that it is the most resilient industry in the world. If you look at the last 50 years, every time there has been a crisis that impacted tourism it has rebounded and flourished.
“This time will be no different. If we don’t yet believe that tourism is here to stay we are never going to want to own it. That is my biggest pet peeve,” said Walkine.
She added: “I don’t know why over all these years we have continued to disrespect it. There is not going to be something better. All of the traditional industries are going bye-bye. The only way to encourage more ownership for Bahamians in the industry is for Bahamians to begin to respect what this industry has provided for us and can provide for us.”