NASSAU, Bahamas – October 12, 2016 — Although Grand Bahama was among those islands hardest hit during the passage of Hurricane Matthew last week, the tourism industry on the island is moving quickly to rebuild itself in an effort to offer something better than ever.
Tourism officials began this effort with a sound assessment of the island’s hotel properties, beaches and other tourist attractions. Bahamas Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe is in Grand Bahama where the assessment is still ongoing.
“We have to be honest about Grand Bahama because that’s the only way we can move forward. Tourism on the island has come to a grinding halt. Hotels, restaurants and tour operators have all been affected by Hurricane Matthew, but there is hope and Grand Bahamians are resilient. Everywhere you go on this island people are working. People are working on their homes; people are working at the hotels to fix those properties. Grand Bahama will rise again, better and stronger,” Wilchcombe said.
“We are still assessing the full extent of the damage and will know better later this week or early next week when Grand Bahama will be fully open for business. We have an incredible team here in Grand Bahama. The tourism team is already back to work and focusing on rebuilding the industry despite dealing with their own personal tragedies.
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (BMOT) Director for Grand Bahama Betty Bethel said there is a feeling of “optimism” on the island among tourism stakeholders who are hoping to open their resorts and businesses during the “winter season”.
“We are looking at the positives here. This is indeed an opportunity for Grand Bahama to freshen up its tourism product and to create some new product. The relaunch will reflect, I think, a different attitude, a different perspective in terms of tourism on Grand Bahama. We are now focusing on reinventing ourselves.”
“After speaking with several of our partners they are very optimistic that with the restoration of power and water we actually can have a product within two months,” Bethel said.
Many of the resorts on the island have communicated to tourism stakeholders that they expect to open either in November or December.
Based on initial damage assessments, Viva Wyndham Fortuna said it expects to open on November 14.
Castaways, which had roof damage resulting in 32 rooms being out of order, remains open. The hotel has water, wifi and limited electricity.
Pelican Bay had minor roof damage to its conference center, which is currently being repaired. The property is taking corporate business and restoration teams only and is not open to leisure guests. Its restaurant, Sabor, is also open.
Work on Memories Resort is expected to begin soon and the company said in a statement released on Tuesday it is expected to open on December 10. Until then the 500 staff members will undergo extensive customer service retraining ahead of its proposed opening date.
The Grand Lucayan, which includes the Lighthouse Pointe and Breakers Cay, had water damage and roof damage. Lighthouse Pointe is expected to open November 7.
Flamingo Bay Resort had minor damage and is awaiting the restoration of power before opening.
Taino Beach Resort received extensive damage and officials there gave no timeframe for opening.
Old Bahama Bay Resort sustained minimal damage and will open once power and water have been restored.
A team of workers are currently assessing the damage to the Ocean Reef Resort and no opening date has been given at this point.
Travelers are encouraged to reach out to hotels for regular updates on proposed opening dates.
Treasure Bay Casino reported minor damage to its interior, although it suffered major roof damage. The property is proposing to open on October 31.
Clean up of Port Lucaya Marketplace is underway. Businesses in the island’s tourism hub are hoping to reopen soon.
UNEXSO, the local scuba diving and dolphin tour company, sustained no damage and is open for business.
Garden of the Groves had extensive damage to the landscape but restoration efforts are underway. Grand Bahama Nature Tours reported that they were able to secure all of its equipment and will be able to run Jeep, bike, ATV and kayak tours as soon as all routes are assessed and cleared for safety. Tours are expected to recommence on October 31, the company said.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is still carrying passengers to Freeport, and the company is looking to aggressively promote 2-night Bahamas cruises in hopes of encouraging travel to the island.
Regarding the major cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Lines said they were reviewing upcoming itineraries to make adjustments. Norwegian Cruise Lines said, “Our destination services team is in close contact with officials and operators in Freeport. Assessments are ongoing and we will be communicating with our guests soon if there are any impacts or itinerary changes.”