The Minister of Tourism yesterday admitted that tourism on Grand Bahama had “come to a grinding halt” due to Hurricane Matthew, as his officials looked at ways to improve the product.
“We have to be honest about Grand Bahama because that’s the only way we can move forward,” Obie Wilchcombe said. “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.”
Mr Wilchcombe added: “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.”
The Ministry of Tourism’s director for Grand Bahama, Betty Bethel, said there is a feeling of “optimism” 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,” she said.
“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.”
Many of the resorts on the island have communicated 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, wi-fi and limited electricity.
Pelican Bay had minor roof damage to its conference centre, 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.
“It is imperative that we get our island up and running,” said Magnus Alnebeck, Pelican Bay’s general manager. “My staff has been exceptional in keeping our doors open, guests as happy as they can be, and we opened our signature restaurant Sabor two nights ago.
“Our roof damage has been secured and ‘made safe’ thanks to the quick work of local contractor, Freeport Construction. We were able to host the Government delegation twice this week, which included our Prime Minister, and our usual renters held their weekly Sunday church service here too.”
Mr Alnebeck added: “We are very pleased to be able to provide space for many of the companies that are involved in maintaining and restoring essential services.
“It is our hope we will be able to take booked guests and returning residents shortly, but we will advise via our Facebook page when this can happen. We just want to get our Great Grand Bahama up and going.”
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 is currently assessing the damage to the Ocean Reef Resort and no opening date has been given at this point.
Treasure Bay Casino reported minor damage to its interior, although it suffered major roof damage. The property is proposing to open on October 31.
The clean-up of Port Lucaya Marketplace is underway. Businesses there are hoping to re-open soon.
Garden of the Groves had extensive damage to the landscape but restoration efforts are underway. Grand Bahama Nature Tours reported that it was 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 two-night Bahamas cruises in hopes of encouraging travel to the island.
Carnival Cruise Lines said it was 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.”