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Forward, Upward, Onward Together.
That has been the motto for the Bahamas and part of its coat of arms for decades. But in New York City on Wednesday, a top Bahamian tourism official said the words are taking on a new meaning. He joined with travel advisors less than a month after Hurricane Dorian devastated portions of his home country to send a message: We’re open for business.
The trip to New York comes just weeks ahead of the peak tourism season in the Bahamas.
“When you say that the Bahamas is devastated, you’re really affecting the tourism industry,” said Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, deputy director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.
An estimated $2 billion worth of reconstruction is needed to get the islands back from Dorian, which had stalled for 36 hours over the Bahamas and killed 20 people. Sixty percent of the economy of the Bahamas relies on travel. Thompson wants visitors to know that, for now, it won’t be the “picture perfect brochure visit.” Dorian stripped out about 20 percent of its tourism business, he said in response to a question from Skift. That’s why he said it was important for people to come.
Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko and Thompson reminded the press that 14 out of the 16 islands are still in operation. The island nation, which spans over 500 miles from Bimini to Inagua, offers tourists a variety of activities to choose from, they said. Travel Leaders is the largest travel agency group in the U.S.
“The best way you can help us is to assist us by still coming to the islands of the Bahamas,” Thompson said. “We need that tourism revenue in order to help with reconstruction.”
In an effort to bring in more travel, the ministry has become more aggressive in its release of different marketing campaigns. From Lady Di’s pineapple farm and the People-to-People Experience to the Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” campaign, the ministry is offering a new face of travel in the Bahamas that will allow visitors to live local, as Bahamians.
While Freeport may still be recovering, cruise lines are now up and running to the port city. And despite the devastation to two of its biggest travel destinations, Abaco and Grand Bahamas, they are stressing the fact that Nassau is still a major destination for weddings and honeymoons.
“The focus that we have is on romance,” Thompson said. “When we go to the other islands, what you’re looking at is how do you unwind and relax.”