The Jr. Minister of Tourism Competition was held on Abaco March 19 at the Office of the Prime Minister in the Government Complex. The topic students had to present their speeches on was “Diversifying the Tourism Product.” Eight students competed representing five high schools: St. Francis de Sales, Agape Christian School, Forest Heights Academy, Long Bay School and SC Bootle.
Zoya Thompson (Agape) was the winner. Jessica Knowles (St. Francis) and Sierra Carroll (Agape) placed second and third respectively.
Each student did an excellent job and competition this year was markedly tough. The judges deliberated on their choice much longer than expected before announcing Zoya as the winner.
Zoya’s presentation was the first of the morning. She wore a jacket with photos of Bahamian scenery and culture sewn into it and she wore a Junkanoo headdress. “We must diversify our Toursim product,” she declared, and listed items such as Medical Tourism, Sports Tourism, and marketing each island of The Bahamas as opposed to just Nassau.
Radisha Destine (St. Francis) was next. She touched on activities such as bonefishing as a an important tourism sector. Radisha praised the People to People Program and hinted at targeting the Asian market for tourism growth. Areas of improvement, she noted, would be battling crime and improving inter-island air travel.
She was followed by Isabella Albury (Forest Heights). “Tourism is woven into Bahamian life,” she noted. She highlighted ecotourism for adventure seekers and the advantages of advertising the unique family islands. She plead the case for protective legislation to keep the environment pristine, since it is our most important resource. Finally, she noted the need for the average Bahamian to focus on themselves since we are each a representative of our tourism product. It is necessary, she said, to accept diverse people and lifestyles if we are to grow our economy and our culture.
Darius Curry (SC Bootle) announced that excellence should be our goal in all things. Sun, sand and sea is fragile, he said, and instead we should turn our focus to our arts and culture. We have a diverse culture and tourists could enjoy a different flavor on each island in our archipelago. He said the key was having our visitors walk away with a broader understanding of what make the Bahamian people uniquely Bahamian and said schools need to give more attention to Arts Education.
Jessica Knowles (St. Francis) also noted the importance of cultural tourism. There is opportunity for growth in sports, religious and educational tourism to our islands. An important sector for growth would be African-American tourists who have not been traditionally targeted. She also pointed out how critical our second-home owners are to the tourism product, especially in the family islands.
Sierra Carroll (Agape) mentioned the “Four As.” The 4As being: Accessibility, Accommodations, Amenities, and Attractions. She said that in imagining diversification we must be dynamic. Visualizing a green apple vs. a red apple may seem to show diversity, but in the end they are both apples, she explained. Thus, the need for broader thinking when engaging our tourism product.
Romea Rolle (SC Bootle) said we need to reach a younger, more diverse segment of tourists via “Digital word of mouth.” She mentioned adventure-based tourism revolving around birdwatching, blue holes and our marine life. She said it is critical to protect our country’s artists since tourism is simply a vehicle to share our art and culture.
Alicia Dormeus (Long Bay) began her presentation in a fun way with a phone prop, pretending to talk to her friend. She preached unity and diversity and said in order to really move our culture forward and diversify our tourism product we need to engage and include our various migrant communities. Cuisine, she noted, is something The Bahamas can readily share and grow as a product since our country is a melting pot of different food cultures. She also spoke of the need to regenerate run-down buildings and areas that detract from our tourism product.
Zoya Thompson, after winning the competition, was encouraged to “Go to Nassau, and bring that crown back to Abaco.” The National Jr. Minister of Tourism Competition takes place later this year and Abaco will be represented by Ms. Thompson.