“The number one comment I get is, the people are so friendly, warm and charming! If we could hold on to that and sell that more, we will have a number one destination,” said Matthew Taylor, People-to-People Ambassador for the Abacos.
Matthew, a taxi driver by trade and an ambassador for The Bahamas, recalls hearing about the People-to-People program when he was growing up.
“I’ve always heard about People-to-People as a young man. I was always interested and what really stuck with me is being able to share the culture with guests and visitors that come to the island, which I was excited to do. I do it basically every day but on a more personal level, as often as I can. Whether or not it’s an appointment from the Ministry of Tourism, I just always try to be friendly, more inviting, letting them see what The Bahamas is like.”
The People-to-People program was first introduced 43 years ago by Sir. Clement T. Maynard. It’s a community-involvement venture sponsored by The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. The overall goal of the program is to give visitors a unique opportunity to experience life as Bahamians do. Interested visitors are matched with Bahamians primarily by occupation, leisure or religious interests. Currently, the program has over 500 volunteers throughout The Islands of The Bahamas and can be found on Nassau/New Providence, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera/Harbour Island, The Abacos, The Exumas, Bimini, San Salvador, Andros and Cat Island.
People-to-People ambassadors all feel that the program is an rewarding experience.
Matthew is no different, when he recalls his favorite moment thus far in the program, his eyes light up; his passion and pride is frequently displayed through his excitement to share his experiences.
“A few years back, at Christmas time I was driving some guests and their flight had a long layover about four hours. I took them to my house for dinner, they had kids and we allowed them to watch television, while the adults watched us make dinner. We shared in a Christmas experience with my family, which they enjoyed. They couldn't believe that people were that hospitable.”
Being away from the capital doesn't come without its challenges. For Matthew, his challenge is constantly creating unique experiences for the guests using the resources available to him and others on the island
Matthew tends to take a different approach than most ambassadors. Using his day to day job, as a taxi driver, if the guests do not have pre-arranged plans, he takes them on tours and shares colorful stories about the history of the island. His goal is to do his part in ensuring they enjoy every second of their time in The Bahamas.
“You have to be conventional and create a people-to-people experience in Abaco. Whether it's a tour where you’re challenged to capture your audience with a piece of history. The historical sites, in most cases are not properly marked but they exist particularly in Murphy Town and Marsh Harbour. Some people are very interested in the history of the tours. Here it's not like Nassau where it's scripted or easier to share the story, you have to put it together as you go.”
Although it’s not without its challenges, Matthew enjoys every second he gets sharing the warmth of the Bahamian people.
Visitors that Matthew hosts in the People-to-People experience are welcomed by Matthew and his wife, treated to a delicious Bahamian dinner then escorted across the street to a stand created for these dinners, which serves drinks and conch salad. An experience, Matthew says is loved by every guest.
“My wife gets very excited, she wants to make sure everything is perfect. Me, on the other hand I’m casual and the guests are extremely relaxed. We cook for them, they enjoy the food and it’s to the point they don’t want to go home and it’s a combination of the hospitality, the warmth and the genuineness of the experience. It’s my intention to share the experiences I had as a child growing up.”
Matthew is a true Bahamian, originally from Eleuthera, he moved to the Abacos as a boy. His vivid memories from his childhood are filled with bike riding, fishing, the island life. It is these same experiences, he uses to create unique memories for guests visiting Abaco.
To Matthew, this is a dream come true and if there are others looking to contribute to the engine of our economy, he recommends it wholeheartedly.
“If you love meeting people, showing them your country and watching their faces react to the experience of enjoying The Bahamas as we do, then this is for you.”
If you’re planning a vacation and you’re looking for a unique opportunity to learn more about the country and its people in an interactive setting then, this is for you. Click for more information.