Tourism officials embrace celebrity event
Guardian Sports Editor
Published: Sep 30, 2013
EXUMA, The Bahamas – The Ministry of Tourism proved that its sports tourism initiatives are not limited to New Providence, as the island of Exuma hosted the inaugural Sandals Celebrity Getaway and Golf Weekend at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma this past weekend.
A number of celebrities made appearances at the event, including the husband and wife team of Rodney and Holly Robinson-Peete, Alan Thicke, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Steven Bauer and Garcelle Beauvais, just to name a few.
Golf legend Greg ‘The Shark’ Norman flew in from China on Friday evening and was the featured attraction. He conducted a clinic for about 50 Bahamian youngsters at the driving range on the golf course and led a team of five celebrities trying to sink a historic “hole-in-one” for a $1 million donation to charity.
Pet Hanna from the Ministry of Tourism’s office in Exuma said that when you have this caliber of visitor coming to Exuma, the benefits are going to be endless.
“Exuma on the whole was very excited about this tournament,” said Hanna. “This is going to bring benefits for years to come. Just the idea of celebrities coming here for golf brings a lot of excitement to these shores. They will go back to their respective shows, or areas of work, talking about how they spent the weekend at Sandals in Exuma,” she added.
There were a number of activities planned for the celebrities this past weekend, and some of them even ventured out of the regular confines of Sandals Emerald Bay to tour the island. Some of the guests even swam with the pigs at Staniel Cay. For most, the many amenities of Sandals Emerald Bay were quite sufficient though.
“People are going to want to come down and see where Sandals is, see the beauty of the water and the island itself,” said Hanna. “The Ministry of Tourism is very excited about projects like these because they are high end and they will pay dividends for Exuma and the entire Bahamas for a number of years.
“When you look at the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the on-shore activities, the water sports, all of these entities are going to benefit. This is just the beginning. Next year, the tournament is going to be bigger and better.”
As the event grows from year to year, Hanna expects the number of participants to increase as well. It is the first high end celebrity golf event to be held in Exuma, and just the second in The Bahamas, following in the footsteps of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational which was held at the One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course, for 10 straight years, from 2000 to 2010.
“The more we could get the word out about Exuma – the beauty of the waters and the hospitality of the people, the better for the tourism product in Exuma,” said Hanna. “I’m very excited, and on behalf of the entire Exuma community, this is the kind of events that we are hoping that the government continues to support,” she added.
Proceeds from the event went in support of the Sandals Foundation, which funds projects in the Caribbean in three key areas – education, environment and community.