Fixing our downtown and tourism product
Published: Oct 21, 2013
Changing the October 12 holiday to National Heroes Day would be a big joke to me if the rest of the world was not laughing at us – especially now that we are begging visitors to our beautiful shores and the few attractions that we have to offer we are taken away.
The thought that we can only draw 20 percent of our tourists off the cruise ships is proof that we don't have enough to offer them in the way of historic points of interest, Bahamian uniqueness and charm. With 80 percent of the tourists remaining on the ships in port, it gives the staff on the cruise ships double work, as they normally look forward during the ship’s stopover at a port where most of their guests get off for an hour or two and they can relax, clean up the ship and get ready for the return influx from shopping.
The Ministry of Tourism does not seem to have in its employment the mentality or the know-how as to how to get that 80 percent off the cruise ship. Any given trip, each cruise ship has at least 2,000 people and if you look at the docks on cruise ship days, you will see at least six ships tied up at the dock. That is at least 12,000 people, with at least $500 to spend at each port. That’s $6 million. Now, my God, you’re telling me that we can't figure out how to get at least half of that in one day? You need to fire all the people who work at the Ministry of Tourism, place them at some other brainless job, bring in six people from anywhere in the world with a reputation of making tourists spend money, so that we can get this country back on the road again in tourism.
I'm the first to complain when there is something wrong. I will now give the government a solution as to how to get $200 from each of those people on the cruise ships to come on to Bay Street and spend it. The things I will suggest are not going to be popular, but we have a choice if we want to stay in the cruise ship business or not.
The first thing the government must do is to block off Bay Street from the foot of the bridge on the western side – no vehicular traffic. That blockage would go straight to #1 Bay Street and Navy Lion Road and Marlborough Street. Then we will put on one end of Bay Street, by the bridge, a well-built horse shed, with a roof for three carriages. The first shed should be by the agriculture building. Five more should be stretching to the Hilton hotel. Along the way from the bridge going west, we should have sidewalk restaurants with different types of cuisine from different countries. These restaurants should be staffed with indigenous people of that country. For instance, in case you think that is strange, the best Chinese food that I have eaten in my life of travel was in Montreal, Canada. Maybe it was because Chinese people were serving me in a Chinese setting. I couldn't tell I wasn't in China. That's why I went in a Chinese restaurant. Our visitors would love that same experience when they travel.
Next thing I would like to see on Bay Street: daily entertainment. We can mark off places on Bay Street where entertainment can be performed in two or three locations at the same time. One of the main things to get those tourists off the ship or off any thing is music. So we can have music, nice soft music, if the volume is kept within earshot; and those things can be controlled by an experienced person. Because we the Bahamian people have this thing about Junkanoo, doesn’t mean that our guests do. I've been in the tourist business since 1949. I rented some of those red singers to tourists, and I don’t remember anyone saying they are coming to The Bahamas for Junkanoo. I think some Junkanoo made that up so that he could “act bad” on Bay Street.
As far as those bleaches being on Bay Street, whoever came up with that idea should be embarrassed. How any Bahamians who think he loves this country would do that to our already filthy city is beyond my way of thinking. The shopkeepers don’t like it. The cruise ships don’t like it. The cab drivers don’t like it. Only the people who are making money off our Bahamian people's $1 million love it. If Bahamians love Junkanoo so much, we should take it Over-the-Hill where it belongs. Take it to the sports center. Everyone can have comfortable seating, protection from the weather and plenty parking. The buses can make a lot of money, and the taxis taking people back and forth, so that the place is not overcrowded. The seating price should drop and Junkanoo should last for more than one day; maybe one week instead. That way the people who don’t like crowds, and the tourists off the ships and hotels, can visit Junkanoo without thinking they are horning in on a private local function. That is why they don’t come to Junkanoo or Goombay.
The next thing that should happen that would make even Bahamians proud and keep them on Bay Street is a 100-foot high screen at three locations on Bay Street on high stands; in the vicinity of the foot of the bridge, one in the vicinity of Bay Street police station and one at the end of Bay Street. Those should be permanent, showing Junkanoo parades and giving the history of Junkanoo 24 hours a day.
The third and most important of all these suggestions is the bathing down of Bay Street every day. Do this and I guarantee you that 80 percent of the tourists on the cruise ships, and 40 percent in the hotel rooms, will be on Bay Street spending money. To police the area, and as an attraction, put policemen on Abaco wild horses. That alone will draw more tourists to the area, as everyone loves horses.
– Bob Nevil