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Bahamas Host course should be mandatory

Tourism Champion: Clifford ‘Snake Eyes’ Fernander

Published: Nov 16, 2012

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Position: Exit agent, Ministry of Tourism in

San Salvador

Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?

Clifford: I have served as The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s representative on San Salvador for over 15 years, and during that period, I experienced the values and purpose of the tourism industry. I have come in contact with a great multitude of visitors. In my latter years, I was given the opportunity to be an exit agent and the rest became history. Last month, we had many guests from Belgium and I had the pleasure of taking them on tours and picnics throughout San Salvador. Also, I questioned if their stay was enjoyable and gave a brief biography of myself. On one occasion, I explained to a guest that I am The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism’s representative. However, the guest exclaimed: “You are the Minister of Tourism?” I tried my best to explain to the guests but they were unable to understand. At the end of their vacation, I had the privilege on taking them from Club Med hotel to the airport. As the tourists and I got on the bus, the leader of the group shouted, “Stop!” He then exit- ed the bus, thanked the hotel manager and said: “They are honored to have the Minister of Tourism to take them to the airport.”

GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as
a career?

Clifford: I feel that I am a good ambassador for my country. There is no other profession that would allow me to freely share the knowledge, love and passion I have than the tourism industry.

GB: What has been your most memorable moment?

Clifford: I have many fond memories of being a tour operator and the most notable occurred two years ago. It all began when I was making some footage for the Ministry of Tourism at the Long Bay Park. A visitor on a motor scooter came to a halt, parked and came over with his camcorder and began recording along with the tourism crew. When we were completed with the tour, that particular visitor approached me and questioned: “Are you Snake Eyes?” I replied: “Yes, I got that name over 40 years ago playing dominoes.” He said: “Oh thank God I found you.” He gave me a great big hug and then asked the other tourist to take a picture of us.

GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?

Clifford: Tourism has changed by leaps and bounds, especially through modern technology and countless advertisements, by people to people, superb service, value for your money and going the extra mile by making our visitors feel at home away from home. This begins with a simple smile, a kind hello and a warm welcome. A matter of importance is that relevant agencies of the Bahamas government should stop fishing and trap setting on or near designated marked dive sites by fishermen living on San Salvador and from other islands. This has been reported to the former minister of fisheries who promised to look into the matter but did nothing. There was a large Nassau grouper named Sammy and many divers came to see Sam- my and take pictures. Unfortunately, Sammy had been caught and many of the repeated divers were very sad that he was no longer there. He was like a pet to them.

GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?

Clifford: The Bahamas should make it mandatory that all persons in the tourism profession, especially who are in close contact with tourists, to take the Bahama Host and Smart training courses. Most countries have sun, sand and sea just like The Bahamas, so we must focus on giving excellent service and to encourage young people to pursue a career in tourism with one or more foreign languages. After sitting and listening to some high school students, I find that many of them do not know The Bahamas and its history. This is where the Bahama Host course is needed in helping them understand the importance of tourism in The Bahamas.

GB: What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?

Clifford: Many young people need encouragement to read more about their history, stay away from drugs and alcoholic drinks, have manners and respect for others, and possess self respect in their dress habits and grooming. I have taken classes at the primary and secondary schools of San Salvador. I am always ready and willing to share my knowledge of history, bush medicine and interests of The Bahamas with whomever wishes to listen.

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