The Bahamas is still reeling after the rampant destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, but organizations and members of the travel community have been helping to support the country and its people since the disaster.
To that end, Travel Leaders Group held a live broadcast Town Hall meeting with the CEO of Travel Leaders Group, Ninan Chacko, and Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation for the Bahamas, Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, to address the overall state of the Bahamas and relay the best ways advisors and travelers can help the destination get back on its feet.
The event also served as a platform to reassure travel agents and clients that the Bahamas are in fact, open for business.
The state of the Bahamas
“We are now in the stage where we’re still going house-to-house, determining what’s safe,” said Thompson. “There’s a lot of debris that has to be cleared away and taken off the island… People are now going back to the islands to try to rebuild their homes.”
He said that the reconstruction effort would be years in the making and could cost billions of dollars, but mentioned that without the aid of the travel industry, conditions could have been much worse.
“The [travel] industry has been fantastic, there’s no other way to put it. Thank you so much for all your assistance,” Thompson said.
One of the first things the duo wanted to clear up is the fact that, despite the rhetoric used in various news reports, the Bahamas, as a whole, was not devastated. In fact, a majority of the islands were largely unaffected, with the exception of Freeport, Abacos, and Grand Bahama Island.
“When talking about the Bahamas being devastated, clearly we’re talking about 16 major islands and 14 of them being really relatively unaffected,” said Chacko.
In spite of this, “the tragedy and devastation on the Abacos, Freeport, and Grand Bahama Island have deeply affected the Bahamian people and everyone who loves the Bahamas. Our hearts were broken to learn about the loss of life and the devastation of communities … and to put it simply, we want to help.”
Travel Leaders Group, along with donations from their partners and advisors, have collected $36,000 in aid for the Ranfurly Homes for Children in the Bahamas. Photo: Daine Taylor/TMR
As part of a fundraising and awareness campaign, Travel Leaders Group will match money donated by its advisor community through its foundations to aid the Bahamas’ relief efforts. Funds raised, currently totaling $36,000, will be directed to the Ranfurly Homes for Children, which provide a safe haven for Bahamian children who have been displaced because of natural disasters, death, abandonment, or other unfortunate circumstances.
Travel Leaders Group will also launch an advisor education and marketing effort to promote travel to the Bahamas for fall and winter.
“The Bahamian people have been welcoming the world to their beautiful country and it is now our privilege to support them in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. In working with the team at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, we determined that our funds could have the greatest impact by directing them to the Ranfurly Homes for Children.”
Getting back on its feet
“The travel industry spans the globe, but the reality is that, in times of trouble, we think of ourselves as a family,” said Chacko. “So as soon as the news about the hurricane hit, even while our advisors were still assisting and rebooking their clients, the first question they asked was, ‘How can we help?’”
On the topic of aiding the destination, Thompson emphasized the essential role that the tourism industry plays in the Bahamian economy. “Well, tourism is 50% of our GDP, so six out of every 10 jobs are directly or indirectly related to tourism. It’s really an important driver for the Bahamas.”
“The best way you can help us, is to assist us by still coming to the islands of the Bahamas, because we need that tourism revenue in order to help with the reconstruction,” said Thompson. “So, if you’re coming, why not think about staying an extra day or two … all of that assists us in getting the country back together.
“The vast majority of the Bahamas is largely unaffected and open for business, and we definitely need travel advisors on our side to promote our [destination].”
To further assist, Travel Leaders Group is spearheading an initiative called “Travel Helps The Bahamas,” to help encourage travelers to visit the unaffected islands of the nation.
“As the largest travel organization in North America, one of the best ways that we can help the Bahamas is to get the facts out and encourage travel,” said Chacko.
“In addition to asking all our advisors across the 20 brands that we have at the Travel Leaders Group to support the Bahamas, we wanted to announce a special offer.”
As part of the “Travel Helps The Bahamas” initiative, Travel Leaders Group and Royal Caribbean International have partnered to support travel to the destination, through an exclusive offer that provides up to $100 in onboard spending money on Royal Caribbean voyages that visit Nassau or Perfect Day on Coco Cay in the Bahamas. This offer is combinable with most Royal Caribbean promotions.
In addition, bonus spending money of $100 per stateroom will be offered for suite reservations; $50 per stateroom for balcony accommodations; and $25 per stateroom for interior and ocean view rooms. “Our partners at Royal Caribbean have been absolutely extraordinary in their support of the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian,” said Chacko. “This special offer from Royal Caribbean will help our tens of thousands of travel advisors promote Bahamas cruises to their clients.
“We are asking our thousands of travel agents in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the UK to consider recommending the Bahamas as their clients plan fall and winter travel, and let them know how they will be helping the Bahamas by traveling there. Today’s travelers want to have a positive impact on the places they visit and people they meet. This is one situation where travel truly does help.”