The Bahamas Government in The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture
1. Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
In my initial working career, I started straight out of high school as an associate of the Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island. In 2004, I served as a Navigator providing guest tours in the aquarium and the Dig which is a staged replica of the mythical sunken lost city of Atlantis. There I met thousands of guests who were both resident at the resort and day visitors from the cruise ships. Following my one year stint with Discover Atlantis, I moved to the front office as a Clerk in the Coral and Beach Towers. From time to time, I also served in Guest Services and Valet Services agent.
Today, I serve as a Public Officer with The Bahamas Government in The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Since joining the Service on November 1, 2006, I have served as National Youth Ambassador to the Caribbean Community, Acting Youth Representative to the Organization of American States, Dean of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors Corps, Executive Director of Junior Achievement Bahamas, Project Coordinator for the American Red Cross Caribbean HIV and AIDS Project in Association with the Bahamas Red Cross and now Officer responsible for Youth in Governance Programmes and Coordinator of the International Desk on youth Matters.
Currently, I am the Officer of the Year in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and in February, 2017 was awarded National Public Service Officer of the Year, an honour I feel the grooming and training at the Atlantis has prepared me for.
2. How do you see the connection to tourism in your current career?
Personally, my time at Atlantis was instrumental in preparing me for my current career. Firstly, the Atlantis resort provided a major investment in training and skills development for its associates. I was a “student” of the Atlantis University and during my tour there, I completed a number of courses which refined my speech and deportment and other characteristics such as team work, trouble shooting and leadership. The hotel community provided a degree of socialization that is not common to most similar environments, the same of which now translates to my conduct of business for and on behalf of the Bahamian people. Courtesy, follow up and follow through, compartmentalization of personal and home affairs so as not to impact the level of service required, diligence, innovation, strong work ethics, critical thinking and problem solving skills are all essential and have been sharpened during my time in the industry.
My ability to care for guests of The Government of The Bahamas and also myself presentation during travel duties are at a high standard because of my time in the industry. It’s been so good over the years that whenever I leave the country on a new assignment, I can be assured of some opportunity for further candidatures and involvement in the international community.
3. What has been your most memorable moment?
My most memorable experience while in the Tourism sector was being a part of the Atlantis Resort Family. Serving our leaders CEO Mr. Paul O’Neil and COO Mrs. Nan Palmer at the time was an honour. We knew our chiefs and saw them regularly. It was always an honour as a resort family to receive our visionary, Mr. Saul Kerzner. When he arrived, the entire resort stood at attention as he entered, warmly greeting guests. I don’t know what it is like now, but employee recognition and appreciation was something to seriously strive for and look forward to. He was a rear gem, a true friend of The Bahamas in my view. At that juncture, the resort ran competition with The Government and the pride associated with working for Kerzner was unmatched, strong, stable and sure.
A most memorable experience was the day I was appointed National Youth Ambassador. A letter was sent to our COO, Nan. She came down from her office and presented herself to me in the lobby and offered her personal congratulations. The resort showered me with gifts, featured me in the Atlantean (the resort’s new letter), a stay in the One and Only Morocco, and allowed me special leave and access to resort facilities. They were truly proud of my accomplishments as an employee.
4. Has the industries changed since you started your career? How?
There are a number of important developments that are needed in our Tourism Industry. Times have changed and no longer can we loosely allow Public Policy to have no say in the way we provide services to those who visit our shores. It has resulted in bad publicity for our country and its reputation. We need to address sectors of our industry that have not been regularized for example, water sports, and ferry transport, among others.
Also, I am concerned that the once implied philanthropic developments by our foreign investors have dwindled. Public Policy must now ensure that thought is given to key development needs and the local encouragement of industry developments that may provide support to our tourism industry. For example, hotels should not be allowed to import onions if they are grown here. Why not use straw brooms from disabilities Unlimited or serve only pineapples from Eleuthera, and BAMSI. The impact of the billions raised through tourism must be felt far and wide and must exceed stable jobs allowing car loans and fancy Miami shopping trips for employees. It must impact national development and economic opportunity for all.
5. What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Tourism in The Bahamas is not new. There are a number of repeat visitors who have now become excited about the potential of visiting new destinations like Cuba for example. It is now time for us to become more innovative with presenting a rebranded product. In my research, I have discovered that the British Royal residences though very expensive to maintain, are for the most part self sustained through structured tours and rental venues. We need to get serious about properly staging our historic sites, especially in our Nation’s capital to source a new stream of state revenue. We should be more intentional about perhaps the temporary relocation of the Office of the Governor-General and the launch of an appropriate restoration and staging of Government House for paid tours that should be curated and key state artifacts staged and placed on display in a museum facility that could be built as an annex on that property for example. Or perhaps the establishment of an Official dual residence and office of the Prime Minister with similar tour facilities. Perhaps we should consider the relocation of the Senate and House of assembly and the current precincts’ used as Parliamentary museum with the daily reenactment of speeches from the throne, royal visits and the events of Black Tuesday.
Tourism in The Bahamas is more than drinks, the beach, horse and surrey rides and the Atlantis. There is so much land to possess and we must get serious about the low hanging fruit; the enormous possibilities that are right in front of us.
6. What advice would you give to a young person who is considering a career in tourism?
Service to our country in tourism is beyond waiting tables and making beds. There are some strategic careers that have yet to be explored. See yourself as a member of the industry through different lenses. Why not a medical tourism professional, a supporting industry partner, a tourism or cultural policy specialist, an antiquities engineer, etc. Think out the box and you can begin doing this by conducting your own research to see where there are deficiencies and where they meet with your interest, apply yourself to the appropriate studies and come back to give to your country for the sustainability and upward advancement of our nation through the tourism industry. There is certainly much land to possess, it isn’t over yet!