‘Please come and visit:’ Unscathed Bahamas islands need visitors to aid hurricane recovery – USA TODAY

Posted: October 5, 2019 at 3:46 pm

One month after Hurricane Dorian hammered the Bahamas, survivors share amazing tales of surviving Category 5 storm & heartbreak over losing loved ones Andrew West and H. Leo Kim, Fort Myers News-Press

NASSAU, Bahamas On a recent sunny afternoon, Nassau's famed strawmarket was bustling as crowds carrying Carnival cruise tote bags oohed and aahed over the hand-made purses and hats.

Four behemoth ships were dockedin the Bahamian capital's port, with more scheduled to arrive the following day, reports the News-Press, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.

Yes, the capital has become a hub for hurricane helpers and displaced people since Hurricane Dorian walloped the islands Sept. 1, but it has the capacity to bend to accommodate them without breaking.

Even as he begged the world to come to his countrys aid by stabilizing the climate, the Bahamian prime minister couldnt help but wax poetical about his nations naturally warm aquamarine and jade waters.

Want to help?: Visit the Bahamas' to help islands recover from Hurricane Dorian

A bus transports cruise tourists from the boat docks to downtown Nassau, Bahamas three weeks after Hurricane Dorian.(Photo: Andrew West/The USA Today Network-Florida)

In his address last week to the United Nations general assembly, Hubert Minnis said Hurricane Dorians devastation should serve asan urgent warning that his archipelago and all coastal communities are endangered bywhat he called the global climate emergency thegreatest challenge facing humanity.

Macro and micro: Climate change is shaping life choices and affecting mental health

But later in the speech, Minnis made another plea to the world: Please come and visit one or more of the 14 other major islands in the Bahamas not affected by Hurricane Dorian, including Nassau on the island of New Providence, he said. The revenue from tourists visiting the Bahamas will play a vital role in reconstructing and rebuilding the affected areas, sentiments echoed by tourism officials throughout the island nation.

A recent meeting in the luxe lobby of Paradise Island's Baha Mar resort illustrated how tourism and recovery can go together.

Creative help: Bahamas bachelorette party turns into mission trip

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As slot machines jingled and flashedbehind them, Naples couple Patty and Christina Amandiswaited for Mia Campbell and familyto arrive. Patty, a Naples, Florida DJ, has been coming to enjoy the Bahamas since she was a kid and estimates she's visitedbetween 30 and 40 times.

But the couple's visit to the islands last week was different: It was a mission trip. The two Naples residents traveledto the waterfront resort, just over a bridge from Nassau, to give away themore than 100 pounds of hurricane help they'd gathered in Florida and hauled to the Bahamas.

In depth: Bahamas struggles to right itself a month after Category 5 Dorian brutalized islands

"We love the Bahamas andthe Bahamian people, and this is our chance togive back," Patty said.

Nassau resident Mia Campbell, originally from the hard-hit Abaco islands, tearily hugged the Amandises and assured them their help would reach those who most need it.

Be like the Amandises, says the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, because the best way to help the islandsrecover is by helping them conduct their tourism business as usual.

By the numbers: Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas

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Its not that the Bahamas want the rest of the world to forget what happened when the Category 5 monster tore through the Abacos and Grand Bahama islands its that they want it to remember that 14 of its 16 main islands are perfectly fine and open for business.

More: Dorian's legacy: The slowest, strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas

The commonwealths last official census in 2010 counted 351,461 residents, with the countrys projections for 2019 at 391,000,though some organizations place that closer to 400,000. Of those, two thirds live in the capital city of Nassau (theyre known as Nassuvians) on theisland of New Providence.

Since the storm, those numbers have increased by as much as 10,000, butNational Emergency Management Agency Director Capt. Stephen Russell said Nassuvians will make room.

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Like Minnis, Russel wants the world to focus on all thatNassau and the Bahamas other islands have to offer.

"We are open for business," he said. "That's what the world needs to know."

Indeed, the Bahamas recovery hinges on the success of the tourism sector some 60% of Bahamas GDP, according to theInter-American Development Bank. That number is the highestof any Caribbean nation, which is whylast weeks just-inked deal with Carnival HollandAmerica Line was such good news for the Bahamas government and such a relief, considering it happened three weeks after Dorian.

Bahamas help: Carnival loads Liberty cruise ship with relief supplies for hurricane victims

Visitors stroll through downtown Nassau, Bahamas near the cruise ship docks on Sunday, September 22, 2019. Three weeks after Hurricane Dorian slammed the islands north of Nassau, the island is still open to its main source of income, tourism.(Photo: Andrew West/The USA Today Network-Florida)

The agreement calls for a $100 million port to be built on Grand Bahama as well as $80 million in enhancements to the companys private Half Moon Cay, including a massive pier that will enable the island to accommodate larger ships. One of those will be Carnivals still-under-construction Mardi Gras, the first cruise liner to be run on liquefied natural gas.

The agreement shows the Bahamas are "full speed ahead," Minnis said.

As deputy director general of the tourism ministry, Ellison Thompson told USA TODAY earlier this month: "The Bahamas is a country of 700 islands and cays beginning 50 miles off the Florida coast and stretching for 750 miles from Bimini in the north to Inagua in the south," said Thompson."The distance between these areas are similar to the distance between Philadelphia and New York.

"IfNYC has an issue, it doesn't affect Philadelphia."

Case in point, the experience the Amandises had at Baha Mar. As Patty looked around at the casino floor, the cafe, the scenic overlook abovethe turquoise waters below, she summed up the scene in a single word: "Paradise."

Map of the Bahamas and Florida.(Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK)

16: Main islands in the Bahamas

14: Islands open for business

$180 million:Port investments pledged by Carnival Corporation in Freeport and Half Moon Cay

60: Percent of the Bahamas' gross domestic product supportedby tourism

6.6 million: Foreign visitors to the Bahamas last year

17: Percent increase from the previous year

Sources: Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation,Carnival Corporation, USA Today,Inter-American Development Bank

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'Please come and visit:' Unscathed Bahamas islands need visitors to aid hurricane recovery - USA TODAY

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