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The Bahamas – A country looking forward with an eye to the past

By Daniel S Levine,

While visiting the Bahamas, going to Nassau is a must, with the city's beautiful views, amazing food and rich history. Officials do not hide the fact that tourism is the country's number one industry. Why should they? If you're good at something, you have to let everyone know.

The 40th anniversary celebration of the country's independence will be at the center of the Bahamas' tourism industry for the next year. Obie Wilchombe, the minister of tourism, notes that it will give Bahamanians a chance to tell their story to the world. Wilchombe also stated that they will be highlighting the aspects of the country that others simply don't have, while pushing for more tourism from outside North America. He agreed that it is a “globalization of tourism.”

A key part of the Bahamas' future, specifically Nassau's, is the new Baha Mar resort, which is currently being built just minutes from the Nassau airport. It is set to be done by the last quarter of 2014 and builder's are working around the clock to make sure that happens. Senior Vice President Robert “Sandy” Sands discussed the vision for the report, which will include the “best brands” possible. While it does face direct competition from Atlantis, the Baha Mar is located on New Providence Island, while Atlantis is farther from the airport on Paradise Island. The Baha Mar will also have a different focus – adults. Sands compared the Baha Mar to Las Vegas and the Atlantis to Orlando, since the Atlantis has areas that cater to families. The Baha Mar considers families the secondary market.

Like Wilchombe, Sands stressed that it is important to draw in visitors from outside North America. Sands considers the Baha Mar an international attraction, one that should draw visitors from Asia and Europe as much as the US.

While many in Nassau are looking toward the future, some are embracing the past and having fun with it. Arlene Nash Ferguson and Silbert M. Ferguson continue the traditions of Junkanoo at the Educulture's Junkanoo Mini-Museum. Junkanoo is the traditional celebration on the day after Christmas, when the locals dress in costumes made of paper. Music is made with goat skin drums and cowbells. While you can use any material available, the “essence is the music,” as Arlene put it.

Another must-see attraction in Nassau is Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant, which is home to the third largest wine cellar in the world, with a value starting at $25 million. The Garzanoli family, which owns the property, have also added a cigar rolling factory and a chocolate factory. Graycliff's restaurant is also the first five-star restaurant in the Caribbean.

Nassau is filled with historical landmarks, including the government buildings, many of which are adorned in pink and date back centuries. The Bahamas are open to celebrating the future and expending its horizons beyond the Western Hemisphere. It is also embracing the past, learning from it as the country moves forward. Wilchombe called it building a “bridge to the future,” much like Sir Sidney Poitier was a bridge that opened doors fro people of color around the world.

 
 

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