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Insight: We Come Here For The Real Thing, Not A Plastic, Vomitous Disney Recreation

Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera. Photo: Barefoot Marketing

Lighthouse Point, Eleuthera. Photo: Barefoot Marketing

By Robin Carson

A letter to all Bahamians, most particularly to the inhabitants of Eleuthera.

Hello. Most of you don’t know me. I have, however, endeavoured to know more of you on each of my numerous visits to this wonderful, idyllic, tiny little island in the sun. I write to you today concerning Disney’s purported plan to hew a cruise ship destination out of the wondrous natural, unspoilt lands of south Eleuthera known as Lighthouse Point.

I come from a business background, owning and operating a business successfully for 31 years in my home town of Camrose, Alberta. I say this not because I’m an authority on business but rather to identify the perspective I’m viewing this plan from, and the response that I hope you will adopt.

Let me start by giving Disney credit. Disney is very good at what they do. Very good. If it’s one thing they know, if it’s one thing they do well is they understand what they are selling, know who their customers are and deliver it in a very well defined and comprehensive package. You see, they don’t sell tickets to rides. They don’t sell tickets for boat “vacations” and they certainly don’t sell tickets to movies. They sell an experience. They sell the awe and wonder of a man made, highly engineered experience, set up by masterful movies directed at kids (or the kid in all of us), supported by synthetic vacation locations, and undergirded by a magical kingdom that is dubiously labelled “the happiest place on earth”.

The experience, in particular the cruise ship vacation packages, are often themed re-enactments of favourite movies of theirs, reinforcing the positive “experience”.

Disney, with the deep pockets provided by a voraciously enthusiastic viewing public desperate for an escape from their everyday life, look for ways to extend or deepen their customers’ experience that continue to deepen and extend Disney’s very healthy corporate pocketbook. So, when Disney looks to (reportedly) create a Pirates of the Caribbean enclave on the Lighthouse Point location, they aren’t purposefully or evilly planning on massacring acres of pristine beach, land and water just to be spiteful. They are doing it because the appetite of the public to relive the movie or immerse themselves in their fantasy (including, no doubt, Johnny Depp) is so strong.

Disney is simply seeking to give their customers what they want and will pay handsomely for. At ANY cost! Their assurances of both jobs and low environmental impact is nothing more than a courtesy required of a marauding foreign nation seizing upon a newly discovered territory fit for their needs.

However, here is where I want to engage you, here is where I want you to understand what I saw the first night I set foot on Eleuthera, what I still see today. That first day, that first night under the stars, that first meal at the restaurant I exploded with exclamation. I stopped literally in the middle of the road, smelling the air, feeling the soft breeze, gazing upon the myriad stars in the sky and I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. My wife had to physically pull me off the road, afraid that I would be hit by a car.

Afterwards, I went online on a Bahamian forum and asked this question: “Do you understand what you have here? I mean, I know you’ve lived here, possibly all your lives, but do you really know what you possess in your island, in your country?”

Here is the takeaway from my viewpoint, the one thing I want all Bahamians to know from a visitor’s perspective: You all, and your country must know the fact your customers, the ones who come back year after like myself, spend our money at local stores and find genuine experiences with genuine people are coming here to buy “the experience”, just like Disney’s customers. Only, here’s the difference. We seek the experience born in the reality of nature, the beauty of a serene sunrise or a peaceful, soulful sunset. We do not seek the artificial, plastic experience of Disney’s vomitous re-creations on your beautiful shores, carving lands and contouring seas to their will to please their customers and pry compensation from their tight little billfolds.

This catering of the daily deluge of their well protected and cordoned-off customers will have its equally catastrophic effects on the coral, fish and flora of the area. No, unlike that abomination, we seek the real experience, not the profane caricature.

We sit down at the local restaurants like Sunset Inn, Front Porch, Sammy’s, Ship to Shore, Northside. We spend our money in the company of Bahamians because for many of us, that is the real value of The Bahamas. That is “The Real Bahamas”. Not what Disney puts out. What you all provide. From the heart. Your island is the stage, indeed a most beautiful stage, that provides us the opportunity to experience the real value, the true currency of your country.

Don’t let Disney dictate what meagre portion of the vacation funds they are willing to allow their customers to find their way into the local economy, like crumbs from a King’s banquet, or perhaps I should say a Mouse’s feast.

One of my greatest memories is buying a full-day tour from an Eleuthera man and his wife’s tour company. It happened to include about three hours at Lighthouse Point. It is a stunning area, a gorgeous view, an incredible experience. Do you know what I remember the most though? The two hours I sat with the man, sharing experiences, finding out about his life, his struggle to provide and flourish on an island with limited resources.

Experiencing the real Bahamas will not be found in Disney’s planned development. It will be found in the lives, hearts and homes of Bahamians.

You proud and kind people of this beautiful land, I implore you to be the authors of your future, of the next and brightest chapter of your lives and your nation’s existence. Let your imprint, your ideas, and yes, your sustainable, low impact development be the ones to grace your shores. No one knows your land or cares for your nation as you do. This ship is yours to captain and I urge you to take the helm and steer your course.

Don’t let Disney and The Black Pearl commandeer you and plunder your riches. Please say no to Disney and likeminded developments that would seek to obliterate your natural landscape and carve it into a movie setting with resultant disastrous effects on your land, your seas and the tourist dollars already on your shores seeking what you naturally possess: a beautiful, only lightly developed island with happy, soulful people who are the true treasure of this land.

I encourage you to take action by writing your representative, emailing or phoning the Prime Minister’s office, and lend your name to the petition at https://www.change.org/p/dr-hon-hubert-alexander-minnis-save-lighthouse-point. Be a part of your future.

Comments

birdiestrachan 3 weeks ago

Eleuthera is a beautiful Island. The Government must be careful not to sell the Bahamas for a cold bowl of porridge. Future generations will hold them in contempt.

They should learn from Our Lucaya it should be a good example

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Soapstop 3 weeks ago

I so agree! Selling his birthright was Esau’s fate and I prey the government and people of the Bahamas do not follow suit. Disney must not have their way!

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empathy 3 weeks ago

Thank you very much Mr. Carson.

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Soapstop 3 weeks ago

My online account says Soapstop, but I assure you I am that same “Mr. Carson” :) and I can attest that the pleasure was and is all mine. The Bahamas is a beautiful country with joyous and gracious people and I hope all can benefit from a healthy, sustainable business model, not the fetid proposal Disney is pedaling to the government.

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joeblow 2 weeks, 6 days ago

It takes a non Bahamian to say what the government of the Bahamas should be saying! So sad!

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professionalbahamian 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Thank you Mr. Carson!

We can only hope our Government will listen - The more they borrow the more desperate they become for large misplaced foreign investment projects.

The real genius would be someone who could figure out a way out of the viscous cycle: (overspend, borrow, overspend, borrow...bend the standards, forget vision, and allow for whatever investment walks through the door?)

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Soapstop 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Thank you for that affirmation. I really am impressed with One Eleuthera’s vision for the area. They have been meeting with the public and with officials to promote their idea of sustainable development in balance with the natural gifts this area is blessed with. Their believe a National park designation, after purchasing the privately held part of the land at the point will allow them to develop it correctly. Full disclosure, I am not connected with One Eleuthera in any direct way, but admire what they have to say as an alternative to Disney.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Noble sentiments. Which you cannot eat.

How much do you spend when you sit down "en famille" in the mentioned restaurants? $100?

And how much will Disney leave behind? And how many jobs will they create? It's a matter of balance. Sure, it's great to say "Don't develop, I like it the way it is." from 1,000s of miles away, while spending a week a year there. But those Eleutherans need to eat too and 365 days a year.

I am sure a compromise can be found which satisfies all sides. Most importantly, local Eleutherans need to decide, not Canadians or Americans. But all opinions on the subject are welcome.

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becks 2 weeks, 6 days ago

OldFort2012......you talk about jobs for Bahamians....well to see how beneficial these cruiseports are for Bahamians just look a couple of miles down the road to the Princess Cay cruise port that has been operating for many years. It has not been of any major benefit to the locals beyond a few menial step-and-fetchit jobs. The local settlements are just as poor as they were before it was built. These cruise lines and their private islands and ports do nothing for the locals. The examples are scattered all over the country.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Well, when we come out of school with an A, we can become astronauts. While we still get a D-, we get the jobs we can cope with.

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Soapstop 2 weeks, 6 days ago

I’m not sure what you mean by this, but my inclination is to reject what you may be inferring.

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Soapstop 2 weeks, 6 days ago

I totally agree with you, OldFort2012. Well almost totally. I agree that local Bahamians are the ones to decide their future. I was simply stating my viewpoint along with my experience my first visit in 2011. Where we diverge is in the how much I spend supporting local business and how much that is in relation to revenue generated by Disney Cruise Lines for locals. The hard facts are in 2017 your own Minister of Tourism (May I assume you are Bahamian?) admitted that cruise lines represented 75% of the visitors to the Bahamas, but only accounted for 11% of the tourist dollars spent. Cruise ship passengers spent on average $70 per entire visit to a port of call, while land based visitors spent $1200. The One Eleuthera proposal for the same area has plans that include just as many jobs, Bahamian control, and sustainable, secure growth. Yes, I may be miles away, but I’m not near sighted. I have friends that work in South Eleuthera and I know from them it’s a struggle. I choose to believe them when they say, “there’s a better way than Disney’s way”. I appreciate your comment, because I believe it shows concern, not apathy.

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OldFort2012 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Well, as to the tourist spend, it's hardly surprising: 1. Cruise lines passengers are rednecks on a tight budget and stay a few hours only. 2. Tourists going to Baha Mar stay several days and have a much larger budget. It boils down to numbers: 3,000 passengers x $50 = $150,000/day, which is more money than you can find in the whole of Eleuthera. Per day.

At to the One Eleuthera project...is it funded? Do they have any money to put down or are they talking out of their ass, as Bahamians love to?

Simple questions....but let all the facts come out and the local Eleutherans decide. I have no doubt they will make the wrong choice, as we have done with monotonous regularity since 1973.

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Soapstop 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Ahh, good sir, but you miss the salient point. That’s a total spend. In a development that, just as in Princess Cays, controls the amount of money that gets into Eleuthera’s economy. That money is spent onDisney controlled kiosks, Disney owned land. And of course doesn’t account for the loss of revenue from tourists heading “up” south to behold Lighthouse Point for themselves (as I have) or who spend money on tours to the area (as 8 have) to access this most beautiful area in all its quiet majesty. Thank you for being engaged. I truly hope Bahamians make the right choice for them, and no one else, including me.

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kristelsea 2 weeks, 5 days ago

On what planet do you believe that all 3000 cruise ship guests will spend $50 each? Check with the stall vendors at Princess Cays and you will find out that some days they don't even make $10 - and these vendors only spend $5 per day for their stall space outside Princess's gate. Cruise ships charge such a high percentage or fee for local vendors to have stalls inside their property that many vendors barely make enough to cover costs. So even IF people spent $50 a day, less than 50% of that goes to the vendor themselves. Educate yourself before you speak.

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Clamshell 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Mr. Soapstop has visited Eleuthera a couple of times, maybe 7-8 years ago. Swore he would buy land there, never did. Lives in western Canada. Expert on what is best for Bahamians, tho — just as I’m an expert on what is best for the game of ice hockey.

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Soapstop 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Hello Clamshell! Please allow me to correct a few factual errors for you. Started visiting 7 to 8 years ago. Have been there 4 times, spending between 10 days and two week each time. Last time was 3 years ago, not 7. Will be there again in 2019, and am pleased about that. You are correct regarding the land purchase though. That you are! I wanted to and was determined to. Full disclosure is that my wife simply wasn’t comfortable with owning foreign property, but not for lack of trying on my part. Yes I do live in western Canada, and I really hope I didn’t come across as pretending to be an expert. I’m not sure about what you might refer to though. My letter was aimed at the Bahamians who will be most affected by this development, and I wanted to tell them my experience. So I guess in regards to my own personal experience, I could be considered an expert. And no one else can tell me different in this regard. As for Disney’s plans versus One Eleuthera’s proposal for this area, I’m no expert either, but I’m reading a lot of the information and doing my best to educate myself on the pros and cons. How about you? Or is your best shot a little slag that you hurl from time to time? I always welcome debate on a topic if the debaters keep the topic in mind and not an attempt to discount opinions based on personal qualifications.

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kristelsea 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Jobs, jobs, jobs... If you do your research you will realize that a National Park will provide MORE better paid, stable (i.e. 5 days a week), long term jobs than Disney is offering. These jobs will also have benefits. If you're not happy, you have recourse. You can quit and another Bahamian can take your job. If Disney runs the show, they can easily take one of their already paid "cast members" off their ship and put them to work. One Eleuthera (and partners) IS funded and IS able to buy the property. It is only that Disney has already made the offer. (One Eleuthera made offers in the past, but they were not close enough to the asking price.. it is only now that the seller has lowered their price to were OE could actually afford the price). If government says NO to Disney's proposed plans, than Disney will most probably drop their offer. Yes, Disney will provide some jobs... whatever they have to to "meet" their initial promise. But those jobs will decrease in numbers over the years like all of their other locations have. Educate yourselves on what they've done in the past... So many people are willing to be sold a bill of goods without doing the research. Don't just speak in anger or jealousy. Why are so many Bahamians willing to quickly sell out to the rich white foreigner (Disney) before helping build up their own people?

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