With the increase in global competition for a share of the tourism market, Bahamians must protect and encourage the growth of the country’s number one industry, Minister of Tourism the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe said, on January 26, 2007.

“The Bahamas has long been in the business of tourism – long before economists accepted tourism as an industry,” Minister Wilchcombe said. “The experience of countries such as The Bahamas has made the doubtful believe. Tourism is now being touted as the vehicle that will transport many nations out of poverty.

“That is why The Bahamas could not sit idly by and allow a decline of any per centum to the tourism trade.”

Minister Wilchcombe was giving the closing charge at his Ministry’s National Tourism Week.

Minister Wilchcombe added that successive Bahamian governments have used tourism for economic development.

“We have built our nation – its infrastructure, its educational facilities and its health care facilities – from the billions of hard currency that have been left in the hands of our taxi drivers, our straw business persons, in our restaurants, our shops and our hotels,” he said.

“Bahamians have received tertiary education from the income their parents received from tourism. It is an incontrovertible fact that our nation is the ‘House that Tourism’ built and is building. We should then conclude that The Bahamas must do all it can to ensure that we protect tourism, the proven pillar of our economy.”

Minister Wilchcombe said the administration of Prime Minister Perry Christie has focused on the need to generate economic activity on each island of The Bahamas. Too many Bahamians, he said, have had to pack up and leave their island homes in search of opportunities on New Providence and in Grand Bahama.

The “revolutionary” step envisaged by the Prime Minister would revolve around tourism and the anchor property concept, he said.
“We were acutely aware that this new direction would have far reaching challenges,” Minister Wilchcombe said, “challenges that would require the full deployment of the brain mass of this nation to create and introduce new ways to begin this second phase of our national social and economic development.

“We were also aware our efforts would include convincing Bahamians that our nation is laden with potential; that we could preserve our environment, our heritage and culture whilst generating new economic activity.

“This remains a work in progress but be assured that we are committed to the cause.”

Minister Wilchcombe said Bahamians must also appreciate that, for the nation to move forward, they must welcome new ideas and new concepts.

“Too many of us continue to hold on to the past,” he said, “to the models that worked decades ago; archaic models that have been removed from the assembly line, out of production and parts are no longer available.

“A new blue print is being drafted to guide us through the new thrust for this new era of growth and development. This is the reconstruction phase and the Ministry of Tourism must position itself on the cutting edge of this new world order.”