A few projects are in the making to revitalize Grand Bahama’s touristic economy as it repositions, following the catastrophic storm that made landfall the first week of September.
Hurricane Dorian shook the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama to the core, leaving behind death and devastation and destroying the majority of tourists’ attractions.
However, Ministry of Tourism Director for Grand Bahama, Karen Seymour said that the local tourist scene will be great again.
Speaking with this daily September 25 at the Heads of Agreement (HoA) signing between the government and Carnival Corporation for the proposed $100 million cruise port in East Grand Bahama, Seymour added that the island’s “look” has been altered.
She revealed that the ministry is working with resorts, excursion operators and the government to initiate more ways to attract visitors.
“I think we are all aware of the devastating impact that Hurricane Dorian had on Grand Bahama Island and if there is an upside as it relates to tourism, it is for the most part the resorts within Freeport had, relatively, minor damages.
“There is, of course, much clean-up to do. You can replace some tiles on the roof and other stuff that can be replaced around the resort, but the best thing about it is these touristic entities informed us they can be open to receive guests sooner rather than later,” said Seymour.
“The biggest challenge is, of course, the airport. But I believe the owners in conjunction with the government, to whatever extent they can assist, are now working towards an interim solution.”
As it relates to sea transportation, Seymour said that the harbour remains intact and functioning.
“The harbour is largely untouched and is already up and running,” she stated.
“The Grand Celebration, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has already announced their intentions to come back this coming week, specifically on September 28 and the Balearia has been ongoing bringing in supplies, returning residents and of course, taking any residual visitors that happened to stay here through the storm.
“One of the beauties and the benefit of the Grand Bahama Island has always been Eastern Grand Bahama and we know that the damages down there are just devastating. In addition to rebuilding where we can and when we can, our focus is going to have to be on what we do in the short-term to mid-term because revitalization is not something that is going to happen overnight.
“We have begun working with a lot of the tour operators and excursion activities that are still available, but we want to manage the experience here on the island,” she stressed. “We want to manage visitors’ expectations. We don’t want people to come here just on a gold hunt and be disappointed, because they didn’t know the set-up of the island.”
Seymour said that there are some tourists that might have heard there was a storm in The Bahamas, “but we are an archipelago and it could’ve been on any island. So, we need to manage messaging to ensure the visitors are aware of everything and know what is going on when and if they choose to come here.
“We have one or two projects in mind to attract a certain type of visitor. Perhaps to even help with the rebuilding and restructuring, because the whole foundation and profile of the island will change.
“But we don’t want to stop anything,” added the Tourism Director.
“We have 50 to 60 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that comes from tourism that has continued to function, but we have the light industrial area that was impacted by the flood and there is a whole thought process.”
Seymour noted that the restoration of Grand Bahama is a widely dispersed focal point.
“It is not going to be solely resting on the shoulders of Ministry of Tourism; this is a government-wide initiative. We have to sit back and think, because we are three weeks out from the storm. This is not something we settle on overnight, it will take some foundational shifts for Grand Bahama Island,” Seymour stated.
While she was unable to detail some of the industry’s latest projects, Seymour assured the island will become a tourism attraction once again.