From Stafford Sands himself, we learn how the Bahamas became fixed on the economic trajectory it is traveling today. According to Sands, it all began just after Bahamians ran Abraham Lincoln’s Republican government blockade, in order to help the Confederacy, the side fighting to keep slavery in America.
Oddly enough, it was the vast amounts of monies made, and the economic ties forged from helping slave owner states in America attempts to secede from the Union, which launched the tourism industry, in the Bahamas. It started just after the American Civil War ended in 1865. This odd twist in Bahamian history brought the first American tourists to the Islands.
Some one hundred years later, by 1961, the Bahamian tourism industry was the envy of the world.
This was all due, to the twelve year efforts, of one man.
Despite his achievements in this regard, Sir Stafford Lofthouse Sands (23 September 1913 Bahamas – 25 January 1972 London) remains one of the most controversial figures to have ever walked into the perfunctory pages of Bahamian history.
Almost fifty years since his death in self imposed exile in Europe, far away from the land of his birth and efforts, Stafford’s very name still conjures up bitter debate among Bahamians.
Irregardless of the opinions about him now and then, Sir Stafford has long been considered the “Father of Tourism” in the modern Bahamas. Some historians have bestowed the high accolade on Sands’ shoulders of being the architect of Bahamian post-war prosperity.
In truth, by 1961, Sir Stafford had made the Bahamas the envy of world.
SANDS’ SPEECH REPRINTED BY STATE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BOARD OF HAWAII
The Bahamas was definitely the envy of other emerging sun, sand and sea tourist destinations who were eager to find out how Sands, and his creation, the Bahamas Development Board, managed to do it. Hawaii was eager to learn. They reprinted Stafford’s December 1961 speech in newspapers in Hawaii in February 1962.
How did he take a collection of awkwardly shaped, disparate islands and turn them into a tourist mecca?
In a speech delivered in Miami, in December 1961, and reprinted by the State Department of Economic Development in Hawaii, Stafford Sands gave the history of the industry in the Bahamas and discusses his role in the birth of the Bahamas Development Board.
Sands reveals his three pronged approach to creating a superior tourist product: Sales, Advertising and Publicity. Sands said that tourists are just like any other commodity. If you want them, you just have to buy them.
Sands likened the Bahamas success story he narrates to a rags to riches Horatio Alger type story. Alger was an American writer, who was best known for books about impoverished boys rising from humble, poor backgrounds to lives of middle-class status through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty.
In many ways, it could all be likened to a fairytale story.
Once upon a time, on a warm January day in 1950, in Nassau, five men, a yacht marina operator, a real estate agent, a wine and spirit merchant, a retired vice-president in charge of sales at Pan American World Airways, and Sands the attorney, sat around a round table, not unlike that of King Arthur.
Soon, history would be made…
HOW THE COMPETITION DOES IT
(The Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, 25 February 1962)
Members of Bahamas Development Board Meet West Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce 1953
(The Palm Beach Post, Friday August 14, 1953)
Banquet Given By Bahamas Development Board at British Colonial Hotel Nassau for Travel Agents 1961
Left to right: William Clyde Page, The Pittsburgh Courier; Bahamian Clarence A. Bain, member of the Bahamas House of Assembly and owner of Bain Travel Services; Bahamian Milton Henry Taylor, a member of the Development Board; Earl Kennedy, president of ITAS; Bahamian Stafford Sands chairman of Development Board; and Moss Kendrix, public relations consultant to the Bahamas Development Board, Washington D.C.
(The Courier October 21, 1961)
Bahamas Development Board Opens Office on Park Avenue New York 1951