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.