Business

If you want to help the Bahamas recover from Hurricane Dorian, go on a splendid vacation

Abaco and Grand Bahama destroyed but other islands are open for business

BY KEITH COLLISTER
Observer Business Writer

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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Last week, Hurricane Dorian flattened the two northernmost outer islands of The Bahamas, Grand Bahama and Abaco, suddenly accelerating from a category 2 to category 5 hurricane in only hours, and then stalling on top of these islands, destroying thousands of homes with an as yet uncountable number of dead and injured.

The combined population of the two islands — just under 52,000 in the case of Grand Bahama (also known as Freeport) and just over 17,000 in the case of Abaco, or a combined just under one fifth of the entire population of The Bahamas — so that almost no family in The Bahamas.

So what should those who want to help do?

“As the public seeks information on how they can best help the country recover, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (BMOTA), urges consumers to know that the best thing they can do can do for the country, now more than ever, is simple: visit The Bahamas”.

Only Grand Bahama and Abaco were impacted by Hurricane Dorian. The Bahamas is an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays spread over 100,000 square miles. Fourteen islands in The Bahamas, including Nassau, Paradise Island, and the majority of the outer islands: Eleuthera, Andros, Bimini, Berry island, Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Inagua — are still welcoming visitors with open arms. BMOTA adds, “Our warm and friendly people, clear blue waters and our famous swimming pigs are presently greeting visitors and cruise passengers from around the world.”

“Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild,” said Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D'Aigular. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support and love for our islands, and we would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you.”

Travellers are advised to visit the vacation discovery website www.bahamas.com, whose resources include Island Finder (an interactive tool that measures personal preferences to match consumers with the island for them). “In addition to planning a trip to The Bahamas, monetary donations to a reputable relief organisation are most critical at this time. “ A list of The Bahamas' verified partners is available at www.bahamas.com/relief.

Therese Turner Jones, a Bahamian national and head of the Inter-American Development Bank's office for the Caribbean region based in Jamaica (which includes The Bahamas), is a trained economist formerly based at the International Monetery Fund (IMF) in Washington. She observes that while she very much appreciates “the outpouring of support from all over the globe for The Bahamas”, including that of her host country of Jamaica, climate change is a huge threat to her country of birth, “whose highest point is not even two hundred feet.” She observes this will need “a partnership with the international community to allow The Bahamas to recover”, which would include her organisation as one of the most important multilaterals based in the region.

She agrees that the tourism industry, by far the largest driver of the economy, will need to be a key part of the recovery and observed “my favourite place in the Bahamas is the Exuma's. If people were previously going to Abaco, I would send them to Sandals Exuma instead”.

Michael Anderson, the Nassau-based CEO of Royal Fidelity in Bahamas, the leading investment investment bank based in The Bahamas (partly owned by Canada's largest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada), observes that while Nassau was very fortunate in only seeing rain and some wind, business there will need to be very strong to drive the revenues to allow the government to even begin to finance the mammoth task of rebuilding the two destroyed islands.

In their press release, the BMOTA thanked Chef Jose Andres, Atlantis, Bahama Mar, Delta Airlines, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival for their relief efforts. Notably, from last week, Sandals has been matching all donations made to the Sandals Foundation for hurricane relief for The Bahamas.


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