On Tourism

I want you to do me a favour. Take a minute and write a short paragraph describing The Bahamas.Done? Good. Now let me guess: you wrote about the beautiful blue water, the white sandy beaches, the coconut trees, and the warm and friendly people. (Those people who didn't pick any of these things skip two paragraphs and read on.)Now tell me how many times you went to the beach in the past year, how much of that gorgeous water you swam in, how many coconuts you ate from the shell, and how many people you were warm and friendly to on the way to work this morning.We are living a myth. It's not our own myth. It is a myth created beyond our realities by people who live in cold cities with industrial economies, who dream of endless sunshine and warm water and sand that's as white as a wedding. Most of us live out of sight of the sea, and have to drive or catch bus to get anywhere near it. Most of us relate more to our fruit trees and our shade trees than we do to the coconut palm -- we rest in the shade of silk cottons and ficus, we grumble at the dirt dropped from our beautiful and troublesome poincianas, and we snack on jujus and guineps far more than we feast on fresh coconut these days. Our coconut water is as likely to come from the food store as from the shell; and as for the sun -- well, very few of us spend more time out in it than we have to. And as for the friendliness of the people: well. Warm and friendly we may be, but we're also stressed-out and overworked and underpaid and forced to sit in more traffic than is good for any human.Tourism created the myth. We sell it, but we don't live it. In the words of Marion Bethel: in our air conditioned service, we are blessed waiters of grace divine.But it doesn't have to be like that.

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