A veteran stakeholder of the tourism industry warned yesterday that bad attitudes are 'killing the tourism goose' and the only way the country can see a resurgence in visitor arrivals and returns is by tackling this widespread problem.

Anthony "Tony Macaroni" Hanna made those remarks during his address at the Club's weekly luncheon meeting where he shared with Rotarians some of the many 'horror' stories he had heard first-hand from visitors over the years.



According to Hanna, who is the proprietor of the popular Tony Macaroni Bar and Grill on Taino Beach, residents of Grand Bahama are slowly but surely coming to the realization that the island's tourism product is in need of dire attention.

"Over the past 37 years since I've been in Grand Bahama, I've seen drastic changes in the tourism industry. It started out with facilities that cater to tourism

having excellent business. Today, when we look around, we see that faltering, in fact, we see it failing," he said.

"I believe that we must concentrate on the main factor that has attributed to the failure of tourism, and that's bad attitudes, which we find basically in every factor of tourism today."

Hanna noted that at the recent launch of the Ministry of Tourism's "Grand Bahama Island Enculturation Pro-gramme," he learned that when asked, 40 percent of people interviewed in New York, Miami and Orlando said that they would prefer to visit the Caribbean over Orlando or Las Vegas, and in Florida that figure rose to 60 percent.

He pointed out that that meant, in theory, The Bahamas stood a pretty good chance of capturing much of that market.

The problem however, Hanna said, lies in the fact that Grand Bahama is in need of a product.

"We do not have a product here in Grand Bahama, believe it or not. What are they coming here for ? Sun, sea, and sand, you get that in all the other Caribbean islands," he said.

"We don't have a plan to bring the tourists here and to keep them here."

Hanna said in branding Grand Bahama, something should be found that would make the island recognizable to the rest of the world.

Places like Orlando and Las Vegas, he said, are world renowned tourist destinations, known for their unique identities.

"We have to change our attitudes. When you look at sharing lifestyles with our visitors, you don't want to share a lifestyle that's negative, you want to share a lifestyle that we grew up with," he said.

"There were many places we used to take the tourists who appreciated our lifestyle and when they got that attitude of us treating them as though we're all the same, they would say, we're going to come back next month or next year. The problem with Grand Bahama is because of our attitudes, no one wants to come back here."

Hanna shared some very interesting facts with the Rotarians, including that Harbour Island is considered the leader in repeat business in the hemisphere.

"Believe it or not, 86 percent of the visitors to Harbour Island come back within a year. Nassau is floating around 35 to 40, Paradise Island is about 50 to 60, Abaco is roughly 50/50, Exuma is moving quite fast upwards from 20 to about 35 in 2007. Grand Bahama has maintained a constant record of less than two percent," he explained.

"We have the solutions to these problems, but it's going to take a lot of effort and hard work."

Hanna said the service industry is in desperate need of an overhaul that should begin, he said, with training in customer service.

"A lot of people in the service industry believe that they're serving you, that they're a servant to you, no, it's not a servitude business, it's a service business," he said.

Hanna cited the automatic 15 percent gratuity as one of the causes of poor service in restaurants.

"The minute that started, tourism started going down. No one served people anymore, they figured they're getting their 15 percent, why serve. That has to be eliminated before we go any further."

Ending his presentation on a humorous note, he opened the door for an invitation to come back, promising to return with solutions to those problems he discussed.

 Story by K. NANCOO-RUSSELL - Freeport News Reporter