Despite Horrific Hurricane, Much Of The Bahamas Remains Open For Business

Sep 5, 2019

Hurricane Dorian, the strongest recorded hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas, has left tens of thousands of people on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco without food, roofs, transportation and communication. But many of the other islands in the archipelago were spared and remain welcome to tourists.

Joy Jibrilu, the director General of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, says people can help with Dorian relief efforts by continuing to vacation in those parts of the Bahamas.

"If you continue with your vacation, you are helping Bahamians with the economy," she said on Sundial.

Since the weekend, Jibrilu and her team in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, have been gathering donations and supplies to send to her tourism partners on the northernmost islands. She joined Sundial from the city's command center to talk about the early stages of rebuilding in the wake of Dorian.

This has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: The Bahamas greatly depends on tourism as part of its economy. I'm wondering if you have begun conversation with tourism agencies about visits and voluntourism?

JIBRILU: We're definitely engaged with our tourism partners in getting the message out and the message is two-fold: The Bahamas is an archipelago and made up of so many islands and while two of our major islands have been impacted the rest of the Bahamas does remain open. People can help by continuing to come to vacation in the Bahamas. If you continue with your vacation, you are helping Bahamians with the economy. So getting the message out that there was total devastation on two of our islands but balancing that out with the need for life to go. This will help us be sufficiently empowered to do what we need to do to help our fellow Bahamians. 

"People can help by continuing to come to vacation in the Bahamas. If you continue with your vacation, you are helping Bahamians with the economy." - Joy Jibrilu

We move into a century where we're expecting more frequent storms and more powerful storms. Is that a concern that it could harm the ability for the Caribbean to survive on tourism?

One of the things that we're looking at is how do we build more sustainably. How do we learn from these experiences and ensure that resorts in particular are built away from coastlines and built to the levels they need to sustain such winds. I don't think it's just specific to the Bahamas or the Caribbean. We are so close to Florida and it truly is by the grace of God that Florida was spared. And so all of us have to sit down at the table and have these very real conversations as to the future of how we plan for the future and how do we do it without sounding so grim that we frighten the daylights out of people. But do it responsibly and with a conscience and achieve the desired outcomes for everyone.

How do the stories you've heard play out in in the process of rebuilding?

Children who need to get back into school. People who need to get to work because it's long term and they still need the dignity of having a job to be able to support themselves and their family. But at the same time they need a meal. They need a place where they can have a simple bath and brush their teeth. They need clean clothes. When we give clothes we often forget that includes underwear. People have lost their shoes and we've gone through this before and I got a message from someone saying no one has said shoes and there's no one in the community that has a pair of shoes. And so there's every single thing that you could imagine that needs to be done to help rebuild lives and communities and islands.