“To Hell With Paradise”

Readers will perhaps be aware that, stemming from the recent sea glass incident, I thought it might be a good idea to try and have a conversation about tourism in general and what kind of tourism we want for Bermuda. This post seeks to continue that.

It’s not my intention here really to give an opinion, per se.

Rather, what I want to do is put forward some excerpts from a speech, dating from the 1970s, by the then Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The idea is for readers to reflect on his ideas and ask themselves to what degree his sentiments then are still applicable today, not just for Bermuda but for the entire Caribbean.

I’m not able to find an online link to his speech, so I’ve taken these excerpts from a Sports Illustrated article. The entire article is well worth reading, and can be found here.

Speech by Prime Minister James Mitchell in Haiti, 1972

“As premier of my state, you will pardon me, I hope, if I appear not too anxious to grab the easiest dollar. The tourist dollar alone, unrestricted, is not worth the devastation of my people. A country where the people have lost their soul is no longer a country—and not worth visiting.” 

“It is inappropriate to talk about trade winds whispering on islands where poverty shouts.” 

James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines.

James Mitchell, former Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines.

“[Government policy should be] development of our people while giving good value.”

“One myth that needs to be exploded is the idea of the Caribbean paradise. There is no paradise, only different ways of life. The North American trying to escape a big-city problem like air pollution may not recognise the West Indian’s problem of lack of opportunity in a small island – but it is a problem just the same.”

“[St Vincent will concentrate on small numbers of tourists] whose idea of holiday is not heaven but participation in a different experience.”

“St Vincent needs tourism, but we must deal in realities. That’s why it’s wrong to talk of paradise. It’s an image that can only disappoint; tourists come and find roads potholed or they find poverty and ignorance. It’s the same with yachtsmen. We’re not going to control the tides. Some days it might be rainy or rough. But in these islands you have a better run for your money.”

“We mustn’t become overdependent on tourism. We want balanced tourism. This means serving homegrown vegetables and lobster caught the same day instead of imported caviar and steak. This will preserve our agriculture and keep tourist revenues going out for imported food. It’s what visitors want, too. They want to see things indigenous to the islands, like cultivated fields and fishing boats leaving.”


As said, I don’t intend to give an opinion here. I just thought that these excerpts were interesting, and I wonder how relevant they may still be some forty years later.

What do you think?

One thought on ““To Hell With Paradise”

  1. Bowing before the altar of the almighty $ I would have thought would be difficult to stop. As I understand it from a quick Google, tourism continues to grow in St Vincent in 2014/15- but where that sits relative to his thoughts in 1972, I have no idea.

    His fear of “people loosing their sole” is probably quite a real fear, but then he might find it easier to say/think that, if he doesn’t have the “need” for those $$. I suspect his people do.

    We do pamper to the tourist. The potholes we had on South Shore were repaired in time for the first PGA Golf at Tuckers. Prior to that – no one seemed to care.

    I like his view that small numbers of tourists would be the right way to go, but not knowing what else there is in their economy, it’s difficult to know how important tourism is or isn’t to them. Unless – of course he is saying that “to hell with the economy we just don’t want the large numbers of tourists” at any cost.

    I look at the assault of up to 6-7,000 people hitting our island off a cruise ship, and it always makes me wonder. What do they bring to the economy other than tax? Does the damage they do outweigh the benefits of that tax income?

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