By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe on Monday challenged religious leaders in The Bahamas, who mounted a campaign against gambling, to stage a similar outcry against crime and violence.
“I think what’s important about our country is the message,” Wilchcombe said. “If we can mount a campaign against the numbers, effectively done by the church, then I ask the church to join us in effectively mounting a campaign against crime.”
He was referring to the aggressive campaign launched by a group of pastors who opposed the January 28 referendum on web shop gaming and a national lottery.
Wilchcombe suggested that it is counterintuitive for the government to spend millions of dollars on advertisements to promote the country as a top tourist destination only to have that work derailed by international travel warnings.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to talk about the greatness of our country and the beauty of our country and then the next day you get an advisory from the United States that says don’t go Over-the-Hill,” he said.
On Sunday, a multimillion-dollar ad promoting The Bahamas premiered during the Super Bowl. It was seen by viewers in the Florida market, the minister confirmed.
Referring to the crime issue, Wilchcombe said, “That doesn’t make it sound like it’s better in The Bahamas. We’ve got to get Bahamians to believe it truly is better in The Bahamas.”
Last week, the US Department of State released its annual Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
The report said the crime threat level in New Providence was critical and high in Grand Bahama.
It warned visitors to stay away from the Over-the-Hill community, especially at night.
The report noted that armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings and general theft of personal items were common crimes against tourists.
Wilchcombe said these depictions of the country could be a setback for the tourism industry.
“If we can’t have a revolution of love where we can get people in this country to stop thinking about killing each other as opposed to loving each other then we’re destroying the entire nation, so anything we do won’t be worth it,” he added. “So we have been warned continuously.
“If we can mount successful campaigns when we have to, then we ought to mount a successful, sustained campaign... to talk to people and use the church and state together.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian