Eleuthera Scores High on Travel List, Grand Bahama Lower

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Two Bahamian islands are featured on the list of the world's most iconic destinations in the National Geographic Traveler magazine; however, one of them is placed in the 'worst-rated' category.

Grand Bahama placed third on the magazine's list of the worst rated places, while Eleuthera was ranked in the "places doing well" category.

"Something has gone terribly wrong in The Bahamas," said one of 437 panelists who judged the National Geographic Society's sixth annual "places rated" list.

The panelist, who was commenting specifically on Grand Bahama added: "Immensely wealthy tourists (mainly Americans) have bought up all the beachfront; developers have built huge, tacky resorts, and there is nothing left for anyone else."

According to the magazine's website, the survey is an "assessment of authenticity and stewardship, evaluating the qualities that make a destination unique and measuring its integrity of place."

The magazine's list rates the world's most celebrated travel destinations by how well they've withstood the pressures of mass tourism while protecting the environment.

The list, divided into five sections -- best rated places, places doing well, places in the balance, places with troubles and worst-rated places -- featured a total of 133 jurisdictions.

With only 35 out of a possible 100 points, Grand Bahama was among the lowest-ranking destinations.

Only West Bank, Bethlehem, Israel/Palestine and Costa del Sol, Spain fared worse.

Another panelist described the island as a "true tourism folly" with unfinished shells of hotels, and tacky shopping areas.

"Cruise ship hell," said another panelist. "Wealthy outsiders have bought up all the beachfront, leaving nothing for anyone else. As a result, the locals are extremely bitter."

Another reportedly said, the island is "over-developed, with the consequent pressures on the environment and social fabric of the community."

"The selling off of 'protected' islands is unconscionable. An unbelievable amount of garbage has washed up on the beaches. 'Locally produced' products in the straw markets are a joke; there should be a quality artisan market."

But Eleuthera, which fared a little better, appearing on the "places doing well" list. The island received a score of 71.

One panelist described the island as a laid-back paradise for scuba divers and anyone else in search of a "real place' in the islands".

However, the panelist added that "pollution problems are growing, along with the feeling that it is becoming a pleasant ghetto of the privileged."

Another panelist offered, "Protected by limited flights and a relative isolation, Eleuthera and its upmarket Harbour Island give visitors a feeling of discovery. However, those who have been going there for 20 years see the changes that new development has brought. Much of this new construction has benefited the local economy, but attention is not being paid to the environmental impacts."

Eleuthera was also described as "one of the undiscovered crown jewels of the Out Islands."

The panelist said, with the closure of some hotels it appears as if tourism development will remain low key.

"With Club Med closing shop on this narrow, 100-mile-long island, Eleuthera is again truly an Out Island, away from the masses that hobnob on Nassau and Grand Bahama," another panelist said. "Great place to bonefish and scuba dive. On the northern tip, one takes a ferry to neighboring Harbour Island, which has a New England colonial feel, like Nantucket plopped in the middle of the Caribbean."

"A new, very green and innovative resort — Star Island — is being built [just off Eleuthera] by American David Sklar, with government support and much media attention. In addition, there is a fine environmental research station on Eleuthera."

The panelists in the survey are all "well-traveled" experts in a variety of fields including: Historic preservation, site management, geography, sustainable tourism, ecology, indigenous cultures, travel writing and photography, and archaeology, the magazine's website revealed.

Panelists reportedly evaluated the destinations based on six criteria: Environmental and ecological quality; social and cultural integrity; condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites; aesthetic appeal; quality of tourism management; and outlook for the future.

The list will appear in the magazine's November/December issue.

In 2004, when the first survey was conducted, the Bahamian Family Islands received a collective score of 63.

"Mainly the Out Islands are authentic and unspoiled. Wonderful people who appreciate their heritage.

"Except for a couple of islands, there are currently not enough stringent measures and guidelines to ensure sustainable destinations," it said.

Source: The Nassau Guardian
Last Updated on Monday, 02 November 2009 16:32