DEPUTY Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper.
By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS
DEPUTY Prime Minister Chester Cooper said the damage sustained in the structural fire on Monday at Over Yonder Cay, Exuma is estimated to be as high as $10m.
Mr Cooper described the “high end boutique resort” as one of the country’s models for renewable energy, noting that despite the damage sustained he believes the resort will “bounce back stronger than before”.
Shortly before 8pm on Monday, police officers were notified of the blaze that destroyed the engineering building on Over Yonder Cay located six miles north of Staniel Cay, Exuma.
No injuries were reported.
A team of officers from the Fire Department in New Providence was sent to assist with ongoing investigations.
“Over Yonder Cay is one of the models in The Bahamas for renewable energy. They have done exceptionally well, with wind energy as well as solar energy. So, this fire is regrettable,” Mr Cooper told reporters yesterday outside the House of Assembly.
The Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation said the resort employed 40 to 50 people, adding that at the time of the fire, there were less than ten guests and “roughly” 30 employees.
He noted that the fire is a “significant hit” to employment in the area, however he is optimistic that the company would continue to support employees during the interim period of renovations.
The Exuma and Ragged Island MP also expressed gratitude to the Exuma community for their support and involvement in putting out the fire on Monday.
Mr Cooper also said The Bahamas can expect a little over 12,000 visitors during the US Thanksgiving holiday period, as this season is “very good” for the tourism industry.
He believes that the country is on track to potentially exceed the 2019 tourism statistics, which was a “record setting year.”
He also said that the tourism industry has done “exceptionally” well thus far, inclusive of September which is considered a slow period.
Mr Cooper said that local hotel properties are reportedly experiencing high occupancy.
“Thanksgiving is normally a very good time for tourism. We expect significant numbers as we have done fairly well in the past during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. So, we expect perhaps 12,000 visitors for the weekend, maybe even more,” he told reporters yesterday.
He also acknowledged that government’s efforts to ensure the safety of tourists remains a priority. These comments follow the purse snatching incident of a tourist last week.
When asked by reporters yesterday what is being done to protect tourists in the downtown Nassau area, he said: “The reality is that we are managing as best we can with all of the stakeholders. We work closely with the police as there is a strong team of officers here and the police in the tourism policing unit.
“The Ministry of Tourism has always actively engaged in this area, and the surrounding areas. And we work with the merchants as well. We have to be the keepers of the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
He also encouraged Bahamians to be supportive of the tourism industry, because failing to do so is considered “biting the hand that is feeding us”, as he noted that 65 cents of every dollar is due to tourism.