Bahamas facing the challenge of moving forward
“Welcome to all donations, but a great help for us will be visits to the unaffected islands of the Bahamas. They are open, ”said Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, Ellison Thompson
The Bahamas saw a record year for tourism. Then Hurricane Dorian passed. Now, the outlook for that vital sector of the economy is uncertain.
The monstrous storm forgave some of the best-known resorts in the 700-island archipelago, such as Atlantis, Paradise Island. Also to Nassau, the largest city.
But 160 kilometers away, on the Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco Islands, many smaller hotels and pensions were damaged or destroyed. The challenge is twofold: to convince tourists to keep coming without trivializing suffering on the affected islands.
“Welcome to all donations, but a great help for us will be visits to the unaffected islands of the Bahamas. They are open, ”said Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, Ellison Thompson.
Tourism accounts for half of the gross domestic product of the Bahamas, of $ 5.7 billion, according to the Bahamas Investment Authority. In comparison, tourism accounts for 20% of Hawaii's GDP and less than 3% of the GDP of the entire United States.
The Ministry of Tourism confirmed that all hotels in Abaco and Grand Bahama are closed. Together these islands have about 3,000 hotel rooms, 19% of the total of 16,000 in the archipelago, according to Frank Comito, president of the Hotel and Tourism Association. In addition there are hundreds of holiday homes. Airbnb has more than 600 properties for rent in the Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands.
According to official statistics, Grand Bahama received 670,000 visitors in 2018, the vast majority of them on cruise ships. More than 100,000 arrived by air at Marsh Harbor, the largest population of the Abaco Islands.
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), based in Barbados, announced this Tuesday, September 3, through a statement that activated its Hurricane Relief Fund in order to help mitigate the damage caused to the Bahamas by cyclone Dorian.
“Because of this monstrous storm we have witnessed the pain of those who lost their loved ones, the agony of so many who lost their homes and all their belongings, in addition to the anguish of an entire Caribbean concerned about the welfare of the people of these islands ”, underlines the CTO in a statement.
The fund was established to assist countries in reconstruction after natural disasters.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community Governments (Caricom) are preparing to provide assistance to Bahamas, as the hurricane is expected to have left the northwest of the archipelago on Wednesday.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley said the Bridgetown Government is prepared to urgently help the Bahamas, after expressing its deep sadness over the "tremendous devastation and suffering of the people of the Bahamas."
He said everything is ready to send personnel and equipment from the Barbados Defense Force and the Coast Guard as soon as it receives approval from the Government of Bahamas.
"It is increasingly clear that all the nations in this region are becoming more susceptible to the ravages of hurricanes and other adverse climatic conditions," Mottley said, after holding climate change responsible for these natural disasters.
"Barbados is ready and willing to help in any way possible," he added about future assistance to Bahamas.