There seemed to be some mixed messages coming out of the Bahamas following a devastating week of damage from Category 5 rain and winds caused by Hurricane Dorian. Since tourism primarily fuels the island nation’s economy, Dorian has rightfully given vacationers pause, if they haven’t already canceled their plans to visit.
But according to one Bahamas government official, the country was still “open for business. Those words from the Bahamas Consul General came amid widespread reports that survivors were trying to flee the storm-stricken island where at least 43 people were killed from Hurricane Dorian, which at one point sustained winds of up top 200 miles per hour.
The Bahamas was obviously still deep in the throes of recovery. But the rebuilding process was on the horizon, too, something that Bahamas Consul General Theo Neilly said should encourage people to still visit the unaffected parts of the Caribbean island.
“The Bahamas is the archipelago with 700 islands,” Neilly said during an interview on SiriusXM’s “The Joe Madison Show” on Friday. “There are many of them that had very little damage. They’re fully operational. Tourism is still thriving. So, we are a tourism economy. We depend on tourists. Now more than ever, if you want to take a vacation, go to one of the other islands.”
However, CNN reported that the Bahamian Ministry of Financial Services called said there was a “humanitarian crisis” in the Bahamas that the United Nations estimated left at least 70,000 people homeless. Rescue operations were still underway as of Friday afternoon and more than 1,500 people were evacuated and expected to arrive in Florida on Saturday. Hampton University even offered students at the University of the Bahamas a chance to finish the fall semester for free on its campus in southeastern Virginia.
But Neilly said that aside from the Grand Bahama and Abaco islands, which were hit the hardest, the rest of the country was still welcoming tourists.
“Eleuthera for example is open for business, the famous pink sand beaches, the Exumas that are famous for the swimming pigs, Paradise Island, Atlantis Bahama…all the islands of The Bahamas are fully operational outside of Abaco and Grand Bahama,” he said.
Listen to a clip from the interview below.
Neilly’s invitation to vacationers followed social media backlash after a travel agency tweeted on Tuesday saying the same thing. The tweet from a company called Trip Concierge was subsequently deleted after it was blasted as distasteful at best and not having any regard for human life at worst.
But apparently, the travel agency was correct, according to Neilly.
“So, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty, if you can’t volunteer physically, go down there and now more than ever have a vacation in The Bahamas and help our economy,” he said.