In observance of the Ministry of Tourism’s Golden Jubilee, Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie has declared 2014 as “The Year of Culture.” A service was held on Abaco with Tourism and other Bahamas Government officials at St. John the Baptist Anglican Church on Jan. 22 in recognition of Tourism’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Officiating was the Rev. Willish Johnson, Rector of St. John’s.
The order of service commenced with an opening hymn and recitation before Simmone Bowe, BahamaHost Satellite Trainer, wooed the audience with a memorable rendition of “You Are the Strength of My Life.”
Abaco Tourist Manager Wynsome Ferguson and Marlique Hield, the Junior Minister of Tourism from St. Francis de Sales School, both assisted with the Scripture Readings.
After the welcome and recognition by Rev. Johnson, Harrison Thompson, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, was invited to bring remarks. Thompson said this year marks a special time for us in The Bahamas as we endeavor to increase our economic power.
Because Tourism is the main Ministry that has been mandated to promote the country, Thompson said that everyone is needed to help in that process because it affects all of us.
Taking a walk down memory lane, Thompson recalled that tourism was more of a seasonal commodity with the season only lasting three months of the year.
The product of tourism has radically changed since then.
Thompson brought to mind airlines like Bahamas Airways and Mackey Airlines that serviced the Abaco community. As tourism expanded in the mid-1970s, he said that tourism in Abaco was on the upswing and second-home residents were becoming a mainstay.
After visiting Korea last year, Thompson shared that it was through culture that Korea’s tourism grew, and as this is Tourism’s “Year of Culture,” he said that culture is a very important component, and is where tourism is headed.
“Culture is something Abaco knows about, and Abaco can sell itself,” Thompson assured. “Abaco has a high rate of returning tourists, which tells of their satisfaction.
“Today, tourism accounts for more that 60 percent of the nation’s economy.”
With Sports Tourism and Religious Tourism growing in popularity, Cultural Tourism will become a part of the Min. of Tourism’s promotion as they embark on filling hotels throughout the entire year.
Thompson’s remarks were followed by those of Renardo Curry, Parliamentary Secretary and MP for North Abaco. He also gave a brief history of Abaco’s growth in tourism. Recognizing that other Caribbean islands were known for their sun, sand and sea, The Bahamas soon took into account that the nation is its people, music, festivals, food and traditions.
“The island is on the verge of acquiring city status if not already,” Curry said. “I commend the wonderful hard-working staff of the Ministry of Tourism’s Abaco Office for their unwavering efforts to ensure that the island remains one of the leaders in tourist destinations.”
Rev. Johnson again faced the audience to give her sermon based on the Hebrews 6:1-12 Scripture Reading given by Marlique. She said that the service gave an opportunity to pause and reflect on where we have come from and where we are today.
“We enjoy many rich benefits, and it is indeed important for us as a people to recognize from whence we came [and] to recognize on whose shoulders we stand,” Rev. Johnson explained. “But in truth and in fact, we as a country and as a nation have come to appreciate the fact that service is a part of our main business, and this truth is a part of our calling –our calling as human beings for Jesus Himself said to us that we ought to be servants of the servants of God.”
Rev. Johnson went on question what we are doing to pass on our knowledge to others because markets are opening in international arenas, and we must be competitive in the long term. As we move on to perfection, she admonished that we must be good stewards of what we have. She recalled how people used to dress and carry themselves with dignity and respect – how there was distinction and pride in their work.
Mediocrity, Rev. Johnson warned, is the downfall of a nation, and will not allow us to grow or remain a reckoning force on the world stages. She strongly recommended that we deliberately plan and prepare for our future, and look at the reality of who we are as a people.
“As we celebrate, we must be a people who are looking forward, a people who are moving on to perfection,” Rev. Johnson concluded.
Don Cornish, director of Product for the Ministry of Tourism, closed out the service with The Intercessions on behalf of the church, the nation and the world.
Following the service, guests were treated to a complimentary lunch at Mangoes Restaurant.