Sustainable tourism in the Bahamas is critical for its long-term recovery by Adrian Fox

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birds eye photography of structures

This week, the Bahamian Ministry of Tourism and Aviation became a member of the Global
Sustainable Tourism Council, an important step towards setting sustainable tourism as a building
block for recovery and resilience building. Alongside the new approval of $100 million’s worth of
funding by the World Bank to the Bahamas’ COVID-19 Response and Recovery, we can finally look
forward to a positive future for our nation and its post-COVID resurgence.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council aims to increase global awareness and recognition of
sustainable travel and tourism practices through the use of Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
These criteria are organised around the four pillars of sustainable tourism: 1) effective
sustainability planning, 2) maximising social and economic benefits to the local community, 3)
reduction of negative impacts to cultural heritage, and 4) reduction of negative impacts to the
environment.

With the World Bank revealing that the Bahamas has suffered “one of the most severe economic
contractions in the Caribbean”, with an estimated 16.2% contraction due to the halt
in tourism accounting for 60% of the country’s GDP, the restart of the country’s tourism sector
cannot come soon enough. The commitment by the government to prioritise sustainable tourism
will be vital for its short-term economic recovery and long-term economic growth.

Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Bahamas in 2019, caused $3.4 billion worth of damage to our
nation, killing 74 people and leaving hundreds more missing. The hurricane stripped about 20%
worth of the tourism business from the country, and we have struggled to get our economy back
on track amidst the added fallout from COVID-19.

The United Nations called for the modernisation and diversification of the Bahamian economy
back in March, with it noting the responsibility of the country to “work towards a sustainable
tourism model which encourages eco-tourism through small-scale and boutique establishments,
including community-based homestays which can have a more positive impact on the local
economy”. The decision by the Bahamian government this week shows commitment to doing just
that.

Small-scale and boutique establishments are critical to the future of the economy. As the founder
of a Foundation which focuses on the empowerment and education of Bahamian people, I very
much back the emphasis placed on small-scale operators and the contribution they can make
towards reversing the fortunes of our nation. Whether in responding to the immediate damage of
a natural disaster, as our foundation did, or helping to build the long-term platform for economic
resilience – small-scale establishments can very much be at the core of nationwide change.
There are many out there who argue that tourism is an industry beset with negative problems,
causing pollution and overcrowding, particularly in small countries like the Bahamas. Yet in many
instances, tourism can bring about positive change for local residents. Managed sustainably, it can
even do so while avoiding the negative aspects.

Sustainable tourism can and will bring enormous benefits to local communities, something which
very much aligns with our priorities at the Fox Foundation. We are always looking for new ways to
bolster community building and bring about positive change, and the sustainable development of
our tourist sector will promote economic development, job creation and infrastructure
development to improve the standard of living for our local communities.

The Bahamas has long been one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world, with our
country home to many endangered species and important natural environments. The
conservation of our endangered species is as important to our nation’s wellbeing as the
conservation of its tourist industry. Sustainable tourism allows us to do both.
As a Bahamian, it brings me great pride to see our country taking the necessary steps to improve
our economy and lay the foundations for future generations. A sustainable tourist industry will
bring about lasting improvement to the lives of all Bahamians, and help place our country at the
forefront of what tourism should look like across the region, and maybe the world.