By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Tourism will be “intensifying” its promotional campaign in an effort to counteract any negative impact from last weekend’s shooting death of an American man, Minister Obie Wilchcombe said yesterday.
Although criticising opposition Leader Hubert Minnis for “flip-flopping” in his comments on crime and tourism, Mr Wilchcome noted that crime does present a “concern” for the image of the country.
He added that the government does take its responsibility to fight crime seriously and the ministry will be moving to facilitate an increased police presence in tourism areas.
“The concern is not just for any single individual outside the Bahamas (but) for everything that happens in the Bahamas,” Mr Wilchcombe said.
“All the incidents of serious crime – particularly that of murder – causes concern because the image of the country is reflected by what takes place on a regular basis and if we don’t take control of the situation and deal with it then we’ll have even greater difficulties.”
He noted that the previous Christie administration had put in place a policing programme targeting tourism hot spots and criticised the former Ingraham administration for stopping it.
“When I hear the leader of the opposition speak this morning. . . which annoys me because when the FNM stopped the tourism police we had put in place in the last administration, they should have left it.
“It would have, by now, manifested into what it was suppose to have been. But they stopped it and then they had to re-engineer something else with the Royal Bahamas Police Force. But we had a force out there intended to protect the hot spots of tourism and the places where the tourism guests regularise,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “We do not miss the fact that we are responsible right now. We’re the government, we’re responsible, and we take our responsibility seriously. But it’s high time that politicians learn to be more mature in handling situations and the leader of the opposition needs to stop flip-flopping all over the place.
“Every single day you hear him – one day, this way; one day, the next way. When you were a member of the government, you should have been making that statement then because this is not an issue that’s come overnight. These issues have been manifesting and this is now the full manifestation.”
The tourism minister said in light of the death of 34-year-old Chicago native Kyle Bruner, who was in Nassau working on a sail-boat that was passing through, the ministry will continue to monitor the situation as it relates to the country’s image.
“Our public relations units, we’re all over the world monitoring right now,” Mr Wilchcombe said, noting that the story has made headlines with popular UK-based newspaper The Daily Mail. He said that paper also spoke on the “crime concerns” in the Bahamas.
“That’s expected and so we’re seeing if the story’s going to get any traction,” he said, noting the ministry will be focusing its efforts on promoting the “positive” aspects of the country.
“We just have to promote what’s good about the Bahamas,” he said. “We obviously have to intensify our campaign, now. We have a campaign going on right now but obviously we have to add to it and intensify and make sure people are aware of the positive things; because truth be told, there are a million positive things and one or two negative things about the Bahamas, so we have to ensure that the world knows who we are.”
Mr Wilchombe said: “You don’t want the image of our country to be sullied in a way where its going to take forever to return us to the image that we want.”
The ministry will also move to increase police presence in tourists areas.
“The ministry of tourism will take initiatives to make sure that we work with some of the security agencies just to have a presence because we cannot allow the security to fall asleep after 6pm,” he said. “We’re a country, we’re a tourism destination.
“If we don’t do it, they’re join to stay over at Paradise Island and not come across; they’re going to stay on Cable Beach and not come on the strip, Bay Street; they’ll stay on the cruise ships and not come off. That’s not what we want, that’s not tourism.”