TORONTO — Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm on Sunday, Sept. 1. Top destinations like Nassau, Paradise Island, Exuma and Bimini were all spared. The same couldn’t be said for Grand Bahama and Abaco.
In response, the travel industry rallied, and there was swift relief from the cruise lines and major resort brands as well, and the CTO.
“With the Bahamas being an archipelago with more than 700 islands and cays spread over 100,000 square miles, the greatest impact of Hurricane Dorian is being felt in the northernmost islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama, while most of the nation has been mostly unaffected,” said the CTO in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
The CTO’s Hurricane Relief Fund has so far raised more than $25,000.
Major resorts including Sandals Royal Bahamian, Sandals Emerald Bay and Fowl Cay as well as Atlantis Paradise Island, Warwick Paradise Island and Baha Mar, all unscathed by Dorian, worked to help their neighbours to the north with relief efforts and fundraising.
Front-line agents also mobilized resources and shared updates. Just as important about getting word out about donations for relief and recovery, travel agents were also active in making sure winter sun clients knew that the vast majority of the islands weathered the storm with no long-term damage.
One group of five travel agents, Travel Agents Care, pulled together to spearhead relief efforts. The group formed in 2017 after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. When Hurricane Dorian struck, Pat Probert, Karen Gill, Steve Gill, Ian Elliott and Marie Odorizzi sprung into action. Travel Agents Care issued an open call to the travel industry to help raise funds to help families in the Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian. The group partnered with Global Medic, an Etobicoke-based organization that provides emergency relief to those affected by natural disasters and complex emergencies.
CRUISE LINES LEND A HAND
Meanwhile the cruise lines, many with private islands in the Bahamas, donated millions to the country to help fund relief efforts, and provided much needed resources.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line was the first to dock in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island in the wake of Hurricane Dorian in the first days of September, transporting critical humanitarian aid and hundreds of volunteers.
Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line, MSC and NCL all donated millions of dollars to the cause.
Carnival, which resumed calls to Grand Bahama in early October, also stepped up. Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation pledged US$2 million towards relief efforts. Relief shipments were also delivered by Carnival Cruise Line ships, while Carnival employees and guests donated well over $500,000 through online giving tools and collections made onboard.
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In November 2019 a delegation from the Bahamas headed north to Canada, to update the trade.
Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said: “When you look at a map of The Bahamas you quickly discover that it is an archipelago, a group of 700 islands – 16 of which we actively promote – and 2,500 cays that spans almost 1,000 kilometres. Hurricane Dorian, with a diameter of just 125 kilometres, only struck our two northernmost islands – Abaco and Grand Bahama. But thankfully it left the rest of the country – almost 90% of it – completely unscathed, untouched and not in any way impacted by the storm.”
A list of the latest resort openings on Grand Bahama can be found here.
Well over 50% of The Bahamas’ GDP comes from the tourism industry, and two out of every three Bahamians are employed by the tourism sector. Any drop in visitation has a major impact on one of the most tourism-dependent countries in the world.
A brand new campaign, #BahamasStrong, is comprised of a series of promotional videos, is based on the Grammy award-winning song ‘Fly Away’ by Lenny Kravitz.
Kravitz, whose mother was Bahamian, has lived in Eleuthera for the past 32 years.
“Bahamians are very unique people, they’re very hospitable, they’re warm and they’re really funny with a great sense of humour,” said Kravitz in a promotional interview, released as part of the campaign. “After hard times, after struggle, we come together and we celebrate – it’s just the Bahamian thing to do. I guess the right word for it is ‘resilience’.”
Watch for more year-end coverage in Travelweek Daily on Dec. 30th and Dec. 31st as we continue to look back at everything making headlines in 2019, from the proposed Air Canada – Transat deal, to the best oddball stories of the year.