So the first question is: what have we learned? And the second: what do we have to do to survive? We’ve learned that our previous economic model - our almost total reliance on the tourism product - was harder and harder to sustain and has now put us in jeopardy. The industry is highly competitive with many important players such as hotels, cruise lines, airlines and tour companies with their vested interests. The only thing that matters to them is the bottom line and beds, berths or seats filled - they don’t care which destination delivers. As long as it delivers, that’s where they will be.
There are so many destinations now easily accessible in every corner of the world that we were always susceptible to a slew of market influences, from fashionable fads or trends, to serious economic influences in other countries and our homegrown growing aversion to top-class customer service. I’m not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bath water, but we have to re-purpose our product; create our own particular niche market. As Ed Fields pointed out in a post on Friday in respect to moving the country forward in a new way, as along with the tourism product, there is and will continue to be a segment of any population that is affluent with the luxury of disposable income to support a lifestyle which includes plenty of leisure travel. But for us and other countries or islands in similar predicaments, that means offering first-class service as well as facilities. The Bahamas also has an under-valued unique group of islands each with their own distinctive qualities and culture. A valuable drawing card to play in creating an even better product niche. I have yet to hear any visitor in all these past years not express their wonder or praise about their visits to a family island if they have been lucky enough to experience it - and yet we have never fully capitalized on that
To answer the questions I started with, there’s a saying: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. I am sure we all understand the urgency of creating new and innovative ways to do business both for our personal survival and for the overall economy. All of us all individually need to get inventive and quickly. Along with the rest of the world we have to rise to the challenge we are now facing and we have to do it quickly. Each of us, not just the government, need to really start thinking creatively out of the box, there is no time to sit around waiting to see what might happen next. We have to make sure that whatever comes next is what we want to happen because if we don’t, we leave a vacuum and whenever that occurs old habits, old ways rush back in like the tide to fill the void and we will end up, to our detriment, with the same old, same old and that will be an economic disaster impacting everyone.
Success in re-inventing ourselves will depend on the creative thinking we can bring to the discussion and our willingness to adapt, our open-mindedness and our ability to accept current circumstances without being overwhelmed. There is no short term solution for any country - we all have to take the long view and develop strategies for moving forward, at the same time recognising that a major shift in the way we do business on a small as well as a large scale needs to take place. We cannot afford to sit back and wait hopefully for investors, business, persons, corporations, entrepreneurs or visitors to simply show up at our door. We, as a country, need to be ultra pro-active, get out there, start pounding the pavement and knocking on doors looking for new ventures.. Other countries, other communities are in similar straits, so with sense and good will there could be solutions that are mutually beneficial. There is absolutely no reason, unless it’s a lack of imagination, willingness or creativity, why The Bahamas cannot come out with a new and improved ‘normal’. Home-grown industries as well as foreign. We have plenty of excellent human resources between those seasoned and well-trained minds here at home and those young people who have gone away to be educated and stayed away. Many of them only need an incentive and a good reason to come home. Let’s go courting Bahamas!
• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit lifelineswritingservice.com, or call 467-1178.