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Make San Salvador World Heritage site

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A Ministry of Tourism executive yesterday urged The Bahamas to “lobby in earnest” for the entire island of San Salvador to be designated a UN World Heritage Site, adding that this typically boosted business volumes by 8-15 percent.

Jermaine Johnson, senior executive with the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation’s San Salvador tourism office, told the Cat Island Business Outlook conference that the island was a natural for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) title because of its deep history and heritage as well as rare wildlife and five national parks.

Besides being the location where Christopher Columbus first set foot in the western hemisphere on October 14, 1492, he added that San Salvador was also the headquarters for the renowned pirate, John Watling. And the island also boasts the Dixon Hill Lighthouse which, along with its counterpart in Abaco, is one of the last two manual kerosene-operated lighthouses in the world.

The former Crown loyalist Farquharson Plantation, and the history of the Lucayan/Guanahani Indians in The Bahamas, also provide “great selling points in terms of history and heritage”. Mr Johnson argued: “San Salvador can become, and should be, a World Heritage site. Holding this prestigious title will boost tourism. The Bahamas should begin in earnest to lobby for this designation.”

He added that tourism numbers typically increase by between 8 to 15 percent when a location is labelled a UNESCO World Heritage site, and said San Salvador was well-placed to exploit niches such as eco-tourism due to the presence of multiple rate and endangered species - especially birds - on the island.

The steep ‘drop-off’ in ocean depth close to the island also made it attractive for deep-sea fishing and diving, Mr Johnson added, describing these experiences as “second to none” and existing all year-round rather than merely being seasonal. San Salvador, he said, had previously been ranked as the world’s third best dive location by both Dive and Scuba magazines.

Mr Johnson described San Salvador as having “been holding its own” in the tourism industry for the last 15 years, averaging around 15,000 visitors per annum COVID excepted. However, Club Med’s two-year closure, with its re-opening set to occur in October 2022, had driven home the need for the island to reduce its reliance on the so-called ‘anchor’ resort.

“There needs to be a decrease in dependency,” he acknowledged. “We’re excited about Club Med’s return, but increasing the number of guests outside Club Med will be critical for situations where we’re not solely dependent on one major resort. We’ve seen what’s happened over the last year with that property being closed, what it’s done to our economy.”

Mr Johnson said San Salvador needed two extra resort properties able to accommodate a combined 300-400 guests, while noting that it was also open to receiving smaller cruise ships - not the 3,000 passenger variety - such as those operated by now-defunct Crystal Cruises that called on the island last year.

Confirming that San Salvador faces similar airlift challenges to other Family Islands, he added: “We’ve been working with Bahamasair to find that sweet spot. It’s challenging in terms of airlift to San Salvador right now. It’s something all Family Islands face but it’s one of those things we can get over once we have guests coming in on a regular basis. One of the challenges is visitors coming in and having to overnight in Nassau, not having the ability to come in the same day.”

Mr Johnson conceded that San Salvador’s heritage and historical sites “should be better maintained, better presented” but added that the Ministry of Tourism was “working diligently” to improve the situation. “My director from last year has been pushing us to provide signage for those areas, so we’re working on that.”

Dr Kenneth Romer, the Ministry of Tourism’s deputy director-general and acting director of aviation, said it was “aggressively” seeking new airlift for Cat Island to ensure it received its “fair share”. He admitted that the ministry was “not pleased” with existing seat capacity into the island, which received just 0.1 percent of total stopover visitors to The Bahamas in 2021. San Salvador attracted just 0.2 percent market share.

The Ministry of Tourism is planning to “change the narrative” by marketing The Bahamas as a destination featuring 16 different islands, with Dr Romer noting that 70 percent of the country’s 892,977 stopover visitors in 2021 went to Nassau/Paradise Island with 26 percent heading to the Family Islands and the 4 percent balance going to Grand Bahama.

Comments

themessenger 2 months, 4 weeks ago

And while you’re at it, why don’t you have the shamefully desecrated statue of Columbus restored and and placed in a position of prominence there, a truly fitting resting place for that weary navigator.

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Baha10 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Amazing how we want to vilify Columbus on the one hand yet profit off him on the other … need to just accept History as it is and recognize the unique place our Country holds in History as a result, which in turn does absolutely provide our Country with a tremendous opportunity to exploit financially, as whatever one’s personal view, he remains the “greatest” known Explorer of All Time.

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ThisIsOurs 2 months, 3 weeks ago

What historical structures are people going to see at this world heritage site? Asking, I dont know. It would be counterintuitive to name it a heritage site if theres nothing linked to "heritage" there, trails, houses, campsites, graves, landscape linked to a battle etc etc

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carltonr61 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Baffling how The Bahamas pursues historical correctness. It was shameful and touristic suicide to get get rid of Discovery Day. The only epic in time that that the world stares at our nation. All the global players have a stake there. The endigenous Taino People, Spain, Italy with the America's. All roads lead to the manifestations called Discovery, here, in The Bahamas. For our Touristic survival and global maturity we must give rebirth to Discovery Day. It is so sad whimiscal to time agenda sponsored historical academia, purity revisionists correctionalists cannot accept, but question even the existence of hell.

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themessenger 2 months, 3 weeks ago

@carlton61: You can thank the racist and radical Reverend Sebastian and his Nationalist zealot followers for that, those who think they can change history with the stroke of a pen, an act of Parliament or destroying a few statues.

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carltonr61 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The Bahamas, in our effort toward historical utopia and correctness prefers this value negative option happiness while San Salvador is robbed of billions due to our Columbus denial intellectual zero negative sum self gratification. We have lost trillions to be just weak minded followers non adults subjected to peer pressure we tell school children to avoid against The Bahamas' best interests financial interests as posh intellectual valor keeps us in dirt poverty when on October 12 of each year The Bahamas rules the entire modern world. We must make a brave decision. Our future historical economic options rely on this global opportunity and prosperity. We must make a show. The show must and will go on.

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sheeprunner12 2 months, 3 weeks ago

The Bahamas has not capitalized on Columbus at all.

That can bring in millions each year

The clownish black leaders want to remove Columbus from our heritage altogether. Well, they better change the name of the country too.

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Baha10 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Our Ministry of Antiquities would (instead of sitting around doing nothing) commission the construction of full size replicas of the “Santa Maria”, “Nina” and “Pinta” … to be anchored off shore from a fully functional Lucayan Village connected by row boats and authentic dug out canoes with both the Spanish and the Indians in full costume … this would be something San Salvador could be proud to showcase to the World and in turn, worth visiting!

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carltonr61 2 months, 3 weeks ago

@themessenger. Sabatian Campbell should realize that history is a continuum that cannot be taken away from but added to.

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