Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

While reports of damage from Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean are focused primarily on Haiti where the loss of life and property is staggering and still inconclusive, several islands in the Bahamas took a hit as well.

Officials at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism estimated a loss of $1.8 million in revenue from cruise ships that were diverted to other destinations during Matthew.

Temporary resort closures include Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma, reopening Dec. 15; Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, reopening date pushed back from Oct. 14 to Oct. 25 (the resort already had been temporarily closed for upgrades).

The One&Only Ocean Club in Nassau is reopening Oct. 21; the Riu Palace Paradise Island, which briefly closed while engineers assessed the resort for damage, has reopened and is fully operational.

Exuma Water Sports, caretakers for the island's famous swimming pigs, reported that all of the piggies (Mamma, Pappa and babies) are safe and sound.

Freeport sustained serious damage from Matthew, which hit Grand Bahama Island as a Category 4 storm. Power in some areas could take several weeks to restore, and the storm flattened houses and tore off roofs. Many homes and businesses in West End were destroyed, and the storm impacted thousands of people. The red tile roof of the marketplace in Port Lucaya peeled right off, according to Obie Wilchcombe, Bahamas' minister of tourism and member of Parliament representing West Grand Bahama and Bimini.

The island still is struggling to rebound from the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances in 2004.

"We have more damage than we had following Hurricane Frances," said Wilchcombe.

"Tourism on this island has come to a grinding halt," he said.

The airport in Grand Bahama is open to relief flights and domestic flights only. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is carrying passengers to Freeport.

Viva Wyndham Fortuna expects to reopen by Nov. 14; Castaways, which had minor roof damage, is open with water, Wifi and limited electricity.

Pelican Bay had roof damage to its conference center and is not open to leisure guests at this time. Memories Resort expects to reopen Dec. 10. Treasure Bay Casino had major roof damage but plans to reopen by Oct. 31.

The Grande Lucayan, which includes the Lighthouse Pointe and Breakers Cay, had water and roof damage. Lighthouse Pointe is still assessing property damage and will update news on its reopening when possible.

Taino Beach Resort had extensive damage and has no reopening date.

Old Bahama Bay sustained minimal damage and will reopen once power and water have been restored. No opening date has been set for Ocean Reef Resort.

Unexso, the dive and dolphin tour company, is open for business. Garden of the Groves had extensive landscape damage, but restoration is underway. Grand Bahama Nature Tours was able to secure all of its equipment and will be able to run Jeep, bike, ATV and kayak tours as soon as all routes are cleared for safety. Tours are expected to be back on schedule by Oct. 31.

Hilton at Resorts World Bimini reported no major property damage, although landscaping and the glass pavilion banquet space had damage. The resort is open.

Central Andros reported that Small Hope Bay does have damage but plans to reopen on Oct. 19.

The Lighthouse Yacht Club & Marina on Andros was severely damaged and the roof 80% gone. No reopening date has been set.

Haiti struggles

Matthew made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with  125 mph winds tearing through the southern peninsula of a country that, in many places, is still struggling to recover from the 2010 earthquake.

The official hurricane-related death toll is 473, according to Haiti's Civil Protection Service, but that number is expected to rise.

Chief concerns are the rising numbers of cholera cases and the humanitarian crises. The storm affected 2.1 million people, with 1.4 million requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the Ministry of Tourism of Haiti, the Haiti Tourism Association and the National Network of Solidarity Tourism Operators.

The Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien airports are fully operational.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is urging the region's tourism industry stakeholders to assist with both immediate and sustained relief efforts to support Haiti and the Bahamas, which were hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

"The recovery  and restoration process will be long and difficult," said Karolin Troubetzkoy, the CHTA's president. According to Troubetzkoy, a two-step approach is important for the destinations to rebound as quickly as possible. "First, we must meet the immediate needs of people. Beyond that, we need to support long-term efforts which are essential to sustained recovery," she said.

The CHTA is developing a fundraising initiative through the online auction channel CharityBuzz.com, with which it previously collaborated on a relief project for Dominica. Regional hoteliers are asked to donate room nights for the auction to benefit residents in Haiti and the Bahamas. Room nights can be contributed by contacting CHTA's dedicated auction email at [email protected]

Nicole lashes Bermuda

Meanwhile, just following Matthew's hit on the Caribbean, Hurricane Nicole Oct. 13 targeted Bermuda as a Category 3 storm.

Strict building codes and a well-planned hurricane effectiveness program paved the way to a quick recovery, according to Victoria Isley, chief sales and marketing officer for the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

The day after the storm passed over the island, power had been restored to 90% of customers and the airport and the causeway leading to the airport were open. Buses and ferries resumed normal schedules on Oct. 15, as did beaches, parks and visitor attractions.

The Fairmont Southampton and Grotto Bay Beach Resort & Spa entertained guests during the storm with a hurricane party and rum cake bingo, respectively. The Hamilton Princess was fully operational during the storm, including the Marcus restaurant.

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