TORONTO — The news reports coming in from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands are heartbreaking, and the images even more so.
TORONTO — The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation wants travellers – and their travel agents – to know that airports, resorts and attractions across many of the islands, including Nassau Paradise Island, were unaffected by Hurricane Dorian.
A status listing can be found at Bahamas.com/storms. The list is a work in progress and agents and clients are advised to confirm their travel plans directly with the suppliers.
Agents and clients can also help Grand Bahama and Abaco by donating via Bahamas.com/relief, says Paul Strachan, Sr. Director, Canada for the Bahamas Tourist Office.
In a statement sent out to the trade, Strachan said Hurricane Dorian delivered a devastating blow to two of the Bahamas’ major islands – Grand Bahama and Abaco. “All of us are still reeling from the loss of life, homes destroyed and landscape damaged. Relief teams are currently deployed and are providing assistance to those in need.”
He adds: “We have family, friends and colleagues with ties to Abaco and Grand Bahama. At the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, we will continue to pray for the safety of those on these islands and we will support the rescue efforts of our emergency responders.”
As recovery continues in Grand Bahama and Abaco, one of the best ways to ensure ongoing support for the Bahamas is to make sure travellers know that Nassau Paradise Island and other destinations in the Bahamas came out of Dorian unscathed.
Says Strachan: “The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation urges travellers to consider keeping and pursuing their vacations to the islands that were not affected and remain open. In the Northwest Bahamas, these include the Bahamas capital of Nassau and Paradise Island, as well as Eleuthera, Andros, Bimini and the Berry Island. Islands in the Southeastern and Central Bahamas remain unaffected, including The Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay, Long Island, Acklins/Crooked Island, Mayaguana and Inagua.”
Airports, hotels and resorts and attractions across these Bahamian islands “are open and ready to welcome guests”, while cruise schedules are returning to normal, says Strachan.
Carnival Cruise Line has announced that it’s planning 41 calls to Nassau, Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays for the remainder of September.
“Our work to assist and support continues. And as our ships and our guests return to Bahamian ports of call, our visits will make sure that our guests experience the beauty of The Bahamas and that the economy moves forward and jobs will be supported,” says Christine Duffy, President, Carnival Cruise Line.
Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have pledged $2 million in funding and in-kind support for hurricane relief efforts in The Bahamas. Relief shipments on cargo vessels started arriving last week, and Carnival Pride and Carnival Liberty will also drop off supplies to Freeport on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13.
Other cruise lines pledging millions of dollars and support include Disney Cruise Line, NCL, MSC and Royal Caribbean.
Other suppliers including Sandals Resorts with its Sandals Foundation have also stepped up to help.
Meanwhile Travel Agents Care is inviting the industry to help raise funds to provide clean drinking water kits for families in the Bahamas.
Travel Agents Care was founded by five Canadian travel agents in 2017 to help the island of Dominica after it was devastated by Hurricane Maria. That year the group raised over $35,000 to provide clean water for families in Dominica.
According to Travel Agents Care’s Karen Gill, $50 provides a family of five with clean water for up to six months using kits that turn dirty water into drinking water.
Travel Agents Care partners with Etobicoke, ON-based Global Medic.
“With the horrible situation in the Bahamas, we reached out to the director of Global Medic and said we can do a campaign to get more water kits to the Bahamas,” said Gill. “The weeks after a hurricane are critical, the longer people are without clean water the faster they will become ill and potentially die.”
Gill says: “We have set an initial target of $5,000 which would mean 100 water filtration kits. We believe that we will exceed that and ultimately we are hoping to reach $10,000 for 200 water filtration kits. These kits are used in local hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, schools and family homes or temporary living camps.”
The trade can help by liking the Travel Agents Care Facebook page -where the donation link is in a post – or go to travelagentscare.ca and click on ‘donate’.
The founders of Travel Agents Care, who comprise its executive board, are: Karen Gill, Plan A Vacation – The Travel Agent Next Door (St. Catharines, ON); Marie Odorizzi, This is Travel – The Travel Agent Next Door (Brampton, ON); Sharon Loppie – Time 2 Travel, Dartmouth, The Travel Agent Next Door (Nova Scotia); Ian Elliott – My Way Holiday, TravelOnly (Toronto); and Pat Probert – Bob’s Family Travel, TravelOnly (Toronto).
Gill says all travel agents are welcome to get involved with Travel Agents Care and take part in fundraising, assisting with loading containers to go to the islands and helping with local initiatives, regardless of their agency affiliations.