New Providence and the Family Islands
Published: Sep 18, 2013
The Family Islands are remarkably unfamiliar to many Nassuvians.
We spend millions of dollars to court tourists to our islands. Incentives to encourage local travelers and developers exist but they are inadequate. Even a shopping trip to Miami could cost less than a trip to some of our Family Islands.
New Providence is home to nearly 250,000 people, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the Bahamian population; so to some its dominance is justified. But to the remaining 30 percent of the country, such Nassaucentric focus is detrimental to development.
New Providence is not representative of the greater Bahamas. Yet, its inhabitants seem to be experts on Family Island development when foreign investment is involved. This government in particular seems to be drawn to large anchor projects that succeed only in failure, only spurring an initial flurry of jobs before economic catastrophe. Grand Bahama, Rum Cay and Abaco, suffer the same fate of unemployment and despair when the largest employer shuts its doors.
It is hardly surprising then that The Bahamas has experienced a significant population shift to the capital over the past 50 years, mirroring global rural to urban migration trends. While a reversal in this trend would be welcomed, policies to encourage resettlement do not offer enough incentive or opportunity.
We cannot expect solely the members of Parliament representing the Family Islands to convey the needs of their respective constituents when those in Nassau rarely travel to the Family Islands. Arguments can be made that it is the job of the Family Island MPs to help fulfill the needs of constituents, but ignorance by the greater New Providence population impedes progress.
When the Colonel Hill High School on Crooked Island was in a disasterous state that was largely unknown until it was featured in The Nassau Guardian.
Needed infrastructure repairs and improvements are painstakingly obvious; the Family Islands suffer a great deal. This growing disconnect between the residents of New Providence and the Family Islands is alarming.
Traveling to the Family Islands is a breeze compared with international travel. Yet, unless interisland travel is for business or family, few Bahamians take advantage of the spectacular natural splendors found outside the capital.
Cost is a significant impediment to Family Island vacations. Promotions by Bahamasair and the Ministry of Tourism help, but do little to mitigate add-on expenses such as car rentals, which can cost several hundred dollars for a few days.
Hotels or guest houses are available, but quality standards lag behind U.S. counterparts. And those luxury offerings that are available on Harbour Island, the Exuma chain and Great Exuma are far too expensive for all but the wealthiest Bahamians.
As a nation we are tied to the well-being of our tourism industry. Yet, in our desperation to attract foreign tourists, we have ignored local participation as tourists. We cannot expect to move forward as “One Bahamas” according to only those who live in New Providence.