OP-ED: Sun, Sand And Sea…Still?

The content originally appeared on: ZNS BAHAMAS News

The slogan “Sun Sand and Sea,” is an excellent way to describe The Bahamas as it truly represents the natural beauty that the Bahamian Islands possess. Our brightly shining sun, the soft white sand and our almost see through sea all come together harmoniously to create a paradise like atmosphere for Bahamians and more importantly, it seems, tourists. 

While our tropical paradise has helped to establish us as a world renown tourist destination and has been our number one industry for as long as I can remember, I cannot help but to wonder if it will always be this way, if tourism will or should always be, our number one industry. 

At face value, one would say yes! God blessed us to be the stewards of one of the most beautiful places on earth, a place that is on the bucket list of many as a destination they would like to visit. A place where we can proudly chant “I live where you vacation.” And as such, a place where we should promote our islands to the millions of people worldwide looking for a place to vacation!

However, if there is one thing that I learned from the recent COVID 19 pandemic, it’s that our country would be in big trouble if anything should ever happen to our sun, sand and sea, or prohibit people from enjoying it. 

During the pandemic, the beaches were empty, the resorts were unoccupied and the tourism industry was at a stand still. The lack of visitors led to a lack of revenue for our tourism industry which led to the loss of jobs and… need I continue?

This hurt the country.

We cannot allow ourselves to be in this position again, so reliant, so dependent on any one industry to the point where if it crumbles, the nation will crumble with it. 

Tourism accounts for approximately 50% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With banking contributing around 15%, this leaves other industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and fishing to fight for the remaining 35% of our GDP. This once again emphasizes the economic power that tourism has in this country, a power that is too strong. 

I would argue that our GDP breakdown should look more like that of Belize, a fellow Caribbean country, with a similar population size. According to The Statistical Institute of Belize, the industry that contributed the most to their GDP in 2022 made up only 14.7% of their total GDP. This means that even if that industry was to crumble, for whatever reason, their economy would still be able to survive. As the recent pandemic highlighted, we can’t say the same for ours, but how can we change this?

The simplest answer is to send more resources to the different industries. Or in other words, pump more money into them. But I believe that it starts at from our schools. We have to expose our youth to the different industries, get them interested in owning farms or manufacturing products. But, we can’t only inform them, we have to also support them in their endeavours. Pay for them to go to school to learn more about different industries, invest money into their businesses as they explore different opportunities. I know that we do some of these things already, but we have to continue them if we want to boost our other industries.

Now don’t get me wrong, we should continue to celebrate our tourism milestones and boast about the beauty of our Bahamaland. We should continue to encourage people to bring their spouses, their families, their loved ones and themselves to our islands for a vacation. However, we should also continue to boost our other industries so that we aren’t solely relying on tourism. I believe that our sun, sand and sea will always be marketable. However, we need to continue boosting our other industries so that our livelihoods aren’t in the hands of tourists.