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Bahamas open for business

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news/health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

NASSAU, The Bahamas — With guests queuing up on the dock at Sandals Royal Bahamian here, before boarding a boat for a trip out yesterday, it was business as usual at the resort that was untouched by the tentacles of Hurricane Dorian.

In fact, a similar scene of hotel guests enjoying their vacation could be expected at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, as that resort, too, was not affected by the category five storm that lashed two islands in the archipelago last week.

Except for Grand Bahama and Great Abaco, which are located in northern Bahamas, the rest of The Bahamas was spared the wrath of the monster hurricane that left at least 50 dead — a number that is expected to increase as search and recovery operations continue.

After taking the guests on their boat ride, Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resorts and Offshore Islands General Manager Surinder Kahlon sat down with the Jamaica Observer and made an impassioned plea.

“[For] the economy of The Bahamas, tourism is the biggest thing, so we sincerely appreciate the good wishes, the prayers and donations that have been made — and I mean it has been tremendous, not only the responses from our guests but everyone — but the most important thing now is for the tourism to continue, for the guests to come, because that is the driving agent.

“We need them to come, so we want them to know that neither the central nor the southern Bahamas was affected in any which way [by Hurricane Dorian]. Things are operating as normal, so please do come,” Kahlon said.

His appeal comes on the heels of one made by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) spokesperson Carl Smith at a press briefing at the agency's Gladstone Road offices on Monday. Smith said that people need to visit The Bahamas to drive the country's tourism-dependent economy.

“I want to remind the public that our islands… remain open for business,” Smith said. “Yes, Grand Bahama and Abaco have been affected, [but] the best way that some of our foreign partners can assist us is by continuing to do business with us, continue with their plans to visit The Bahamas to conduct their meetings because The Bahamas is still open. New Providence is still open, our islands further south are still open — and that is one of the best ways to assist us, to get our economy back up and running.”

According to the official website of the Government of The Bahamas, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) is approximately $5.7 billion, with tourism accounting for 50 per cent and the rest spread among financial services, retail and wholesale trade, fishing, light manufacturing, and agriculture.

In fact, the website said that since 1996 The Bahamas has seen an annual GDP growth of approximately four per cent which has been primarily driven by advances and expansion in tourism and construction.

Emphasising that The Bahamas is made up of 700 islands and cays that are broken up into three different areas — southern Bahamas, central Bahamas, and northern Bahamas — Kahlon pointed out that only northern Bahamas was affected by the weather system that left thousands homeless.

“Dorian, when it passed, it passed only over the northern Bahamas, so it only affected Abaco and Grand Bahama. It stayed there for a long time because it moved slowly and had a very devastating impact on those two islands; the rest of The Bahamas had no effect whatsoever,” the general manager said, reiterating that the Sandals resorts in The Bahamas have continued to operate normally.

“The hotel has been going through the normal phase of business. Our guests had enquiries, we've spoken to many who have called us and let them know we are open for business. Our airport was opened throughout, so the flights were coming in. The only thing that happened [was that] there were some airlines that chose to cancel,” he said, noting that the resorts worked with the guests to change booking dates, with some guests coming in earlier than previously planned and others extending their stays.

“So we were able to do that for our guests,” he said.

The general manager said, too, that the majority of the resort's guests have been very happy with the way they handled the situation, keeping them informed and updated.

“There was some sense of reprehension — of course that happens when you have a storm this big that's passing close to where we are… [but] we were well out of the way of even tropical storm winds,” he added.