Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday apologized for a magazine advertisement that suggests that Abaco and its cays are not opened for tourists in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
The ad, which was produced by his ministry, shows 15 of The Bahamas’ inhabited islands highlighted in yellow.
Two islands — Abaco, which was ravaged by Dorian in September, and Ragged Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017 — are faded in gray.
“Fifteen islands welcome you with open arms,” it reads.
“You’ve shown us great love. We’re so grateful. We’d like to return the favor. We invite you to experience 15 unique island destinations, sprinkled across 100,000 square miles of uninhabited cays and the world’s clearest water.”
Some Abaconians have taken issue with the ad.
“[W]hy is Abaco not a part of The Bahamas anymore?” Troy Albury asked on Facebook.
“I guess it’s like we always thought: we are the outside child. There are many places in Abaco ready to welcome people. Why you always leaving us out? This kind of advertisement will not help our economy.”
Another person shared Albury’s post, noting, “I hope when Abaco bounce[s] back these other islands and Bahamians, who count us out, keep the same energy. Don’t bring ya behind [to] Abaco looking for jobs. They must have [forgotten] Abaco was the bread and butter for more than Abaconians.”
Following a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism, D’Aguilar told reporters that his ministry needs to “fine-tune” its messaging.
“And I think that the Abaco residents justifiably got very annoyed that we weren’t being aggressive enough in beginning to get the message out that there are properties that are coming back on stream and that they are beginning to reopen,” he said.
“And so, I apologize for that. I think we probably didn’t react quick enough and my team is completely being remobilized now to reconsider that, to update all of our information, to let the traveling public know what’s opened, what’s not opened.
“But, as I say, it’s a balancing act because some journalists went down there the other day, who had been there before, and they wished they hadn’t gone.
“So, you don’t want the word to get out that they went to Abaco on holiday and they were shocked and appalled at the state of destruction. So, as I say, it’s a balancing act. As properties come back on stream, we will do our endeavor best to get that message out.”
D’Aguilar admitted that the ministry did not act “quickly enough” to change Abaco’s narrative nearly five months after the Category 5 storm — the worst in recent Bahamian history.
He said the island is “obviously” a tourist destination back on the mend.
Dorian caused roughly $3.4 billion in damage and other costs when it hit Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The storm impacted nearly 30,000 people and killed at least 70.