Global relief drive
Jamaica, Sandals combine to get world tourism industry help for BahamasWednesday, September 04, 2019
BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Sandals Resorts and the Sandals Foundation have partnered with Jamaica's Ministry of Tourism to shore up sector-related regional and international assistance for The Bahamas, which is now reeling from the ravages of Hurricane Dorian.
“We have begun the process to reach out to the global tourism community to mobilise resources to support the effort of bringing back the economies of our neighbour, as well as to bring back tourism resources,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told journalists at a news conference at his ministry in New Kingston yesterday morning.
“We are moving now to get to our partners — cruise lines, big hotels, big airlines and tour operators — who are beneficiaries from tourism and who can in fact provide resource support, to enable recovery in countries that are vulnerable,” Bartlett added.
Bartlett emphasised the importance of Sandals Resorts and Sandals Foundation to the efforts, due to their extensive footprints across the Caribbean.
Sandals Resorts Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart, who also heads the Sandals Foundation, noted that all three Sandals properties in The Bahamas escaped Dorian's wrath, and that this has enabled the company to focus on assisting the people of The Bahamas.
“As a matter of fact, the storm was over 200 miles away from the closest point from our hotels, which gives us the opportunity to focus on recovery and assistance, however and wherever we can. The minister and myself have been in touch with the minister of tourism in The Bahamas, who is completely inundated, but what is amazing in these situations is the amount of goodwill that immediately kicks in,” he stated.
Stewart pointed out that the Sandals Foundation has infrastructure across eight Caribbean islands: “Meaning, we have boots on the ground. Our job then becomes to be able to be the executing arm for airlines, tour operators, banking partners, the list goes on,” he outlined.
Yesterday morning, Mayberry Investments donated $1 million, through the Mayberry Foundation, to the relief effort mobilised by Sandals Foundation.
“We decided to contribute to the Sandals Foundation effort because The Bahamas are our neighbours,” Mayberry Investments Executive Chairman Chris Berry told the Jamaica Observer after making the presentation at the AC Kingston Hotel.
“I encourage all my Jamaican friends and business associates who have a little extra change in their pockets to chip in because it's really a horrible situation over there. They need help,” Berry added.
Sandals Foundation has already, through HeadKnowles — a non-profit group in The Bahamas — sent US$10,000 worth of water to citizens of Great Abaco, one of the hardest hit islands.
Stewart stressed that the people of The Bahamas are now in dire need of a long list of items and urged the public to participate in the relief efforts through the Sandals Foundation website www.sandals.org/donations.
“We have a shipping address in Miami, Florida. The shipping lanes are still active to get things to Nassau, which more than likely will become a major part of the base where our actions and supporting partners will be based out of,” he said. Cash donations can also be made through the foundation, 100 per cent of which will go to the efforts on the ground, Stewart said.
Sandals has been in discussions with the Bahamian National Emergency Management Agency, the Rotary Club, and HeadKnowles, all of which have been recommended by the Government of The Bahamas as key partners, he noted.
Dorian made landfall on Great Abaco as a category 5 hurricane on Sunday, packing winds of 185 miles per hour. The slow-moving storm destroyed infrastructure, homes, businesses, and subjected the island to heavy flooding before crawling to Grand Bahama where it hovered for just over 24 hours, wreaking further destruction.
Dorian, which has dumped as much as 30 inches of rain on The Bahamas, was downgraded yesterday morning from a category 3 to a category 2 storm on the five-level wind scale. It started creeping towards the coast of the southern US states of Florida, Georgia and South and North Carolina.
Last night, Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis reported that the death toll from the hurricane had climbed to seven.
Yesterday, Bartlett said that support is being sought from the international tourism industry through the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, which was launched in January and is slated to be opened at The University of the West Indies, Mona this October.
He stressed that the initiative will not affect other relief efforts being provided by regional entities as the activities are centred on tourism sector recovery. The centre will also be working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
Bartlett also noted that the Caribbean is the world's most tourism-dependent region, with 60 per cent of its economies relying on inflows from the industry.
“One in five of all workers of the Caribbean are employed in tourism and more than 53 per cent of the trading services in the region are directly from tourism. Any action that impacts the industry has enormous implication for the growth of the region, the stability of the region and the well-being of the people within the region,” he stated.
Bartlett said that when he attends the four-day World Tourism Organization General Assembly in Russia next week, he will support The Bahamas.
“I will be partnering with the (tourism) minister there, to ensure that a full appreciation of the extent of the damage in the area and the extent of support required is realised by all of the partners who will be coming from about 120 countries from across the world,” he said.
At the same time, the tourism minster noted the frequency of adverse weather systems in the Caribbean, and their increasing ferocity and unpredictability. “We are seeing these heightened events coming, of course, from climate change, which is a real issue and can't be swept under the carpet anymore,” he said.