The Junior Minister of Tourism competition took place on March 7 at the Office of the Prime Minister’s Conference Room in the Government Complex. This year’s theme was: “Tourism to the World: I Am Its Voice.”
Six candidates were presented: Marlique Hield from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School; Kirkland McIntosh of Abaco Central High School; Anthronique Cooper of S.C. Bootle High School; Tanisha Charlton of S. C. Bootle High School; Conrad Cornish of Abaco Central High; and Trevon McKenzie of Forest Heights Academy.
Before the competition commenced, Michelle Mikula of the Abaco Tourist Office explained that 40 percent of the students’ scores came from their interview, while the remaining 60 percent would be tallied from the speech portion of the competition. Mikula also introduced two Toastmasters judges: Julieth McCafferty and Charmaine Bonaby along with former District Education Officer and former Island Administrator – Jackson McIntosh.
Marlique Hield was the first student to present her speech. She asked the audience to consider Singapore, which is a welfare-conscious country, and the only country with first-world status in Southeast Asia. Like Singapore, she said that The Bahamas can rise above restraints such as the lack of natural resources, and take this industry to a level that is second to none. Finally, she said that as a Junior Minister of Tourism she would find ways to promote our country as a travel and tourism destination.
“I am the voice of tourism, and so are you,” Marlique affirmed. “Let us show foreigners how fantastic our Bahamaland and its inhabitants are.”
Next, Kirland McIntosh emphasized The Bahamas’ natural resources, our climate, proximity to the United States, cultural activities and our people – all factors that have made our country a prime tourist destination.
“As a nation, we must seek to work together to sustain and to promote tourism in our industry,” Kirkland advised.
Adapting her speech to mirror the words of Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman, Anthronique Cooper declared: “The world wonders where our secret lies. We are not astronomical in size or fashioned to fit a continental size. But when I start to tell them, they accept that I am not telling lies. I say it’s the stride of a proud Bahamian people; it’s the curl of our gorgeous shoreline. Yes, this is The Bahamas, phenomenally, phenomenally, the Bahamaland: that’s us.”
On the heels of Anthronique’s speech, the melodic voice of Tanisha Charlton rose and fell with emotion as she delivered a winning speech. With her words, she illustrated how the sunrise is drawn to our harbours’ magnificent span hoping that we will smile back while Mother Nature blows us a kiss as we walk along our sandy shores forging a strong sense of serenity and security.
“Our waters roar and dance as she begs for us to acknowledge her sacred presence. Melodies scream as the Junkanoo rhythm serenades us; aromas of delectable dishes surround us,” Tanisha continued. “Tourism is our way of life, and it is about time we take it to the world: I will give it voice.”
Conrad Cornish was up next, and he used visual elements to strengthen his speech. He, too, spoke of the untapped resources in our country, and many activities that tourists can enjoy. Eco Tourism was his main focus, and he mentioned the country of Costa Rica as a model to follow.
“Eco Tourism has a lot to offer to The Bahamas financially, and allows us to stay in contact with our culture and our heritage. It allows tourists and us as Bahamians to see and experience the real Bahamas,” Conrad said. “Tourism to the World: It’s My Voice, and you can count on that. I will strive to effect the younger generation throughout The Bahamas and throughout the world. As the very voice of tourism, I will carry out Mr. [Stafford] Sands’ vision of making The Bahamas the No. 1 tourist attraction worldwide.”
Trevon McKenzie was the final speaker. She suggested educating the youth and tourists on what can be done to protect The Bahamas. However, she was dismayed to note that our culture is no longer our own, and that as Bahamians we are fading away into to other cultures.
“Tourism in The Bahamas needs a voice, so I will be its voice,” Trevon pledged. “Can’t you hear? It’s crying in despair…so you see I am the voice, you are the voice, we are the voice, but let’s not be a good voice or a bad voice, but the right voice because this is tourism in our world, and yes we are its voice.”
In the end, Anthronique Cooper placed third; Marlique Hield came second; and Tanisha Charlton was declared the winner, and named Junior Minister of Tourism for Abaco. Tanisha will represent Abaco at the National Junior Minister of Tourism competition in Nassau on April 11.