FRIDAY, MAY 18: I grew up in an era of thriving tourism and I remember it well.
For one thing, there were always hundreds of tourists in just about every venue around the island considered to be a tourist attraction from Fort St. Catherine to the craft market at Dockyard.
Hamilton and its stores were always abuzz with activity of our guests looking for great buys of products they could not acquire in their country or simply snapping photos of our picturesque architectural landscape.
Our beaches were so crowded we could hardly see the sand and those who took to our winding roads on rented cycles were easy to identify as they moved about at a snail’s pace absorbing every inch of beauty no matter which way they turned their heads.
I remember the beauty. Every roadside in Bermuda was full of flowers as was every garden. Bermuda had to be the most hospitable place in the world created of course by its people committed to making sure our guests felt welcomed.
Children learned from a young age that being nice had to be a way of life because those who graced our shores were our ‘bread and butter’.
I remember tagging along with my grandmother and sometimes with my aunt to their job at The Harmony Hall. We interacted with the guests as my relatives served as maids. Yes, that’s what they were called in those days.
The title has changed but the responsibilities should be the same. I learned how to make the tourists’ accommodations top notch clean from the cleaning of their bathroom to the exact science of tucking in the sheets on their beds — and the same was expected of me as a young girl at home.
I learned never to be disrespectful to a tourist but to go the extra mile to show them the way or to spend time in brief conversation with them to tell them more about Bermuda.
Fast forward over forty years later and this instilled expectation continues for me today. In school we learned about the value of hospitality and were exposed to it by way of any number of field trips to places considered to be tourist venues.
My family history is steeped in hospitality from my grandfather who worked for Pan American Airlines, BOAC, Eagle Airlines and the airport limousine service to both my parents who today are well known and well loved, hardworking ambassadors in the taxi industry.
It seemed a ‘no-brainer’ for both my sister and I to get our taxi licences without any coercion from our parents — and likewise my son, at only twenty years old, voluntarily secured his taxi licence having worked himself from the age of 14 in the hotel and restaurant industry.
Now a graduate from university he hopes to secure a job working for Bermuda’s Department of Tourism. This does not surprise me.
The commitment to hospitality in my family has been in existence for several generations.
I smile to myself every time when my son, 14, recognizes a lost tourist studying a map as we drive along and he asks that we stop to help them out. He too understands the importance of making sure our guests have a great experience on our shores.
In the 60s and 70s Bermuda was defined and made by the bellmen, the hotel waiters, the pot washers, the horse and buggy riders, the bus drivers, the taxi drivers, the maids, the local entertainers, and the list goes on.
The frontline faces of tourism were hard-working committed Bermudians who proudly served our tourists and in turn took their hard earned salaries to support their mortgages and their children’s college education.
As we all look around today the entire picture of hospitality has changed. Is it even ours anymore? What has happened and most importantly how can we bring it back?
One cannot truly appreciate anything unless they understand the purpose of it and the importance of their role in it.
This is why it is vitally important for our youth to be taught the value of hospitality for our survival. The youth must feel a part of it in order to make it work for all of us.
It is up to all of us to teach them and to train them and what they learn about being hospitable will surely spill over to all aspects of their daily living as they interact with others.
Join me on Monday, May 21, along with my in studio guest, Karla Lacey, CEO of the Bermuda Hospitality Institute, as we discuss the importance of hospitality and ways to get our young people involved.
• Shawnette Somner is the host of Generations, which airs on DeFontes’ Broadcasting Company’s MIX106 FM. 7.30pm-9pm every Monday. Call in live during the show on 295-1061. Send comments and show ideas to email@example.com