I was away recently on a wonderful trip to the Bahamas….the famous pink sand beach is reason enough to go. Having travelled here since 1983, I’ve noticed a few changes, some good, some bad. Did I just date myself? And when I say the Bahamas, I mean Harbour Island….shhhhhh! I “LOVE” this place, afraid to share my discovery with too many people, fearful that this little piece of paradise, could one day be transformed into a tourist Mecca. Unlike its big sister, Nassau, I often wonder how this tiny, beautiful island, escaped high rises and casinos. The size of the island obviously has something to do with it, 3 miles long and a half mile wide, there’s only so much you can build, which in my opinion, is a good thing. Old conch style cottages speckle the island like colourful confetti. Existing resorts have been restored or rebuilt into small intimate “chic” resorts, all with keeping the integrity of the buildings, offering an island vibe without building up and staying within the property confines. With these improvements come jobs and opportunities, many small businesses are owned and operated by locals. For the most part, people living on the Harbour island seem happy, there’s definitely a feeling of pride & purpose. Did I mention this is one of the most beautiful places to visit, maybe I’m stating the obvious but why wouldn’t you be happy living here?
That said, I’ve seen the effects of progress in Nassau, which quite honestly is a huge disappointment. It’s a miss for me unless you happen to be changing planes or being driven off to the “One and Only resort” compound for a week (even I wouldn’t say no to that). I understand the economics of it, but why do we need to build these ridiculous, enormous resorts on an island that could be more than just commercial development and a cash grab. It breaks my heart to see this happen. Don’t get me wrong, I believe everyone is entitled to make their share of the pie, and I think change is a good thing. But, I do wonder, where the responsibility lies with us as tourists? If you were visiting a foreign destination, wouldn’t you want to embrace the culture, the food, the architecture the people? Why do we need to visit a grotesque version of a sandcastle on a beach with casinos? Or for that matter, a theme park on the beach. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a smaller version of something similar? It saddens me to think that we as a society have decided that this is ok, that this is acceptable.
I’m not sure what the answer is, there were several conversations with taxi drivers and locals, most seem to be okay with it, making money is essential, but at what cost? Money is the driving force for sure, cruise ships arriving daily, thousands embarking on Nassau…what are the expectations of the tourist? Have we slumped to a low that all we want are bars and casinos and somewhere to ditch our kids? I guess for me, at the end of the day, I am happy that Harbour Island exists and has managed to have the right balance for their visitors. I try to visit as often as I can afford and I am always pleased and relieved to see it has remained the same but with subtle improvements, which benefit the island and its people. No matter where you travel, I think authenticity should come first. After all, a sun holiday isn’t a sun holiday unless there’s peace on the beach.