De­spite Dorian, Ba­hamas open for busi­ness

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Business - By DEE-ANN DURBIN and ADRI­ANA GOMEZ LICON As­so­ci­ated Press Writ­ers

The Ba­hamas was on track for a record year of tourism be­fore Hurricane Dorian hit. Now, the out­look for that vi­tal sec­tor is un­cer­tain.

Some of the best-known re­sorts in the 700-is­land chain, like At­lantis, Par­adise Is­land, were un­scathed by the mon­ster storm. So was Nas­sau, the largest city.

But 100 miles away, on Grand Ba­hama Is­land and the Abaco is­lands, many smaller ho­tels and va­ca­tion rentals were dam­aged or de­stroyed. That leaves the Ba­hamas with a dou­ble chal­lenge: con­vinc­ing tourists to keep com­ing with­out triv­i­al­iz­ing the suf­fer­ing on the af­fected is­lands.

“All of the do­na­tions are wel­come, but they can also, very much, as­sist us by still vis­it­ing the is­lands of the Ba­hamas in the un­af­fected ar­eas. They are open for busi­ness,” said El­li­son Thomp­son, the deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Ba­hamas Min­istry of Tourism and Avi­a­tion.

The Ba­hamas de­pend heav­ily on tourism, which supplies half their an­nual gross do­mes­tic prod­uct of $5.7 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Ba­hamas In­vest­ment Author­ity. By com­par­i­son, tourism brings in 20% of Hawaii’s an­nual GDP and less than 3% of the GDP of the United States.

The Min­istry of Tourism con­firmed on Fri­day that all ho­tels on Abaco and Grand Ba­hama are closed. To­gether, the is­lands have around 3,000 ho­tel rooms, or 19% of the 16,000 rooms in the Ba­hamas, ac­cord­ing to Frank Comito, the CEO of the Caribbean Ho­tel and Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion. They also have hun­dreds of va­ca­tion homes. Airbnb lists more than 600 rentals for Grand Ba­hama and the Aba­cos is­lands.

Ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment statis­tics, Grand Ba­hama re­ceived 670,000 vis­i­tors in 2018, the vast ma­jor­ity ar­riv­ing on cruise ships. More than 100,000 vis­i­tors flew last year into Marsh Har­bour, the largest town in the Abaco is­lands.

Comito has beach­front prop­erty in the Abaco is­lands but doesn’t know how it had fared. Some ho­tels were pro­vid­ing up­dates on Face­book. For in­stance, the own­ers of Pel­i­can Beach Vil­las said their ocean­front cot­tages near Marsh Har­bour were com­pletely de­stroyed and they were evac­u­ated to Nas­sau by U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers. Fire­fly Re­sort Abaco tweeted pho­tos of downed trees and a build­ing with no roof and a col­lapsed wall.

“Hurricane Dorian de­stroyed our par­adise. We will re­build,” the re­sort said in its Twit­ter post.

There’s also some in­dus­try in the area. Grand Ba­hama is home to the Freeport Con­tainer Port, a deep wa­ter port for ocean­go­ing con­tainer ships. Hong Kong-based Hutchin­son Ports, which owns the fa­cil­ity, said its emer­gency team was help­ing with res­cue ef­forts and try­ing to re-es­tab­lish power at the port. Spokesman An­thony Tam said the com­pany’s nearby cruise ter­mi­nal sus­tained min­i­mal dam­age and was ex­pect­ing ships car­ry­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian supplies as early as Mon­day.

Those busi­nesses could help speed the re­cov­ery. Car­ni­val Cruise Lines said it’s still com­mit­ted to a port devel­op­ment project in Grand Ba­hama an­nounced ear­lier this year. Slated to be com­pleted in 2021, the port will be the largest Car­ni­val Cruise port in the world and is ex­pected to cre­ate at least 1,000 jobs.

Tourism to un­af­fected is­lands could also bring in much-needed cash and pro­vide jobs to dis­placed ho­tel work­ers. At the start of this year, the Ba­hamas Min­istry of Tourism and Avi­a­tion was re­port­ing record tourist arrivals thanks in part to the re­cently com­pleted Baha Mar lux­ury re­sort. On its home page, Baha Mar has a prom­i­nent link to do­nate to hurricane re­lief ef­forts.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Peo­ple sit un­der bro­ken palm trees Thurs­day out­side the Leonard M. Thomp­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port af­ter the pass­ing of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Har­bour, Abaco Is­lands, Ba­hamas.

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