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Columns Last Updated: Sep 14, 2017 - 9:35:21 AM

Spread the word: The Bahamas is still open for business
By Oswald T. Brown
Sep 14, 2017 - 9:24:58 AM

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Image by Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

NASSAU, Bahamas -- In the aftermath of the crippling blow delivered by Hurricane Irma to most of the islands of the Caribbean that depend heavily on tourism as the mainstay of their economies, it is critically important for The Bahamas to get the word out worldwide that our country is still up-and-running as one of the major tourist destinations in the world.
The telephones at  Weber Shandwick, the New York-based public relations company that the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism signed  a major contract with “to provide communications support in the US and Canada, as well as project work in the UK and Latin America” for The Bahamas, should have been ringing off the hook, so to speak, the day after it became clear that relatively speaking The Bahamas’ ability to provide visitors to this country with the same high-level tourism product that has been the cornerstone of our service-oriented tourism industry.
Potential visitors to this country should be assured that the five-star experience they had become accustomed to  at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island has in no way been affected by rampage of Hurricane Irma through the Caribbean. They should also be informed in no uncertain terms that the recently opened hotels-and-casino resort Baha Mar in Cable Beach on New Providence, which is the envy of the entire Caribbean, was virtually unscathed by the Irma’s fury.
They should be given assurances that on the island of Grand Bahama, the second major island of The Bahamas that contributes greatly to our economic health, the damages caused by Hurricane Irma will in no way derail plans to revive that island’s tourism industry, while at the same time encourage the private sector to follow through on planned investments.
The major danger that The Bahamas faces is that far too many people in the neighbouring United States tend to group all the Caribbean Islands together, and during their discussions with their fellow Americans they may be inclined to misrepresent the almost total destruction of Barbuda or the virtual breakdown in some of the other seriously damaged islands as being what is taking place in The Bahamas.
This is why it is critically important for Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar to urgently instruct Weber Shandwick to spread the word in the United States, Canada, the UK and Latin America that The Bahamas is still very much open for business as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. Indeed, although some of the southern Bahamian islands of the country suffered catastrophic damage, New Providence and its capital Nassau as well as Grand Bahama experienced far less damage. By contrast, it is going to take some other islands of the Caribbean and Florida a long time to recover from Irma’s brutal assault.
In the meantime, all hands should be on deck, especially in Grand Bahama and New Providence, to get The Bahamas cleaned up and ready for business as usual as quickly as possible. No whining about the government should do this or that; if you are able-bodied, get to work.
For those who have businesses, this is the time to fix them better and stronger. It’s an opportunity to try fresh ideas to attract tourists and to invest in the future of tourism and the islands. It will take years for the Leeward Islands to recover, and while we feel their pain, we need to make lemonade from the lemons mother nature has handed us. The Bahamas is the closest destination to the US, and for the time being the only destination in the northern Caribbean region. We need to work together to take advantage of this situation as quickly as possible to ensure that visitors will return and spend money that can benefit not just Atlantis and other resorts, but Bahamian-owned businesses so that the economy can rebound, and in turn help the hardest hit islands with their recovery. This is not a time to be greedy, but to position ourselves as an affordable destination that has picked itself up and is ready to welcome visitors.

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