While Hurricane Dorian devastated two of The Bahamas’ top tourist destinations, it has meant significant gains for at least one island in the central Bahamas.
Exuma Administrator Ivan Ferguson said business has been booming on the island, and as a result hundreds of Dorian evacuees have found steady work on that island.
“Immediately following the devastation of Abaco and Grand Bahama, we have noticed significant increase in business activity on the island,” Ferguson said in an interview.
He added, “Since the passage of Dorian, we have had about 200 evacuees who are now residing in Exuma, and they have had the benefit of employment while they’re here.”
Ferguson said the evacuees are employed in various businesses throughout the island.
“Many of them are employed in the domestic sector, for instance, at hotels, the gated communities such as February Point and Grand Isles and even some of the local restaurants and businesses have employed some of these evacuees,” he said.
Asked whether he is concerned about Exuma’s capacity to host more tourists, Ferguson said it’s not an issue, especially given plans for a new airport on the island.
“Exuma has the capacity to accommodate substantial tourist arrivals,” he said.
“As you are aware, plans are afoot for the construction of a new airport in the new year for Exuma. That is welcome news for Exumians.”
According to the Central Bank of The Bahamas, Abaco accounted for 7.9 percent of air arrivals to The Bahamas in the first half of 2019 and 17.5 of booked vacation rental listings.
Grand Bahama accounted for 3.8 percent of air arrivals in the first half of the year and 8.1 percent of vacation rental bookings.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar projected visitor numbers to be down nearly 10 percent in 2019 as a result of Dorian.
However, he said the ministry was investing time and resources into a campaign to encourage visitors and let them know the rest of the country is still open for business.