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Residents jittery over resort deaths

Even as some Exuma residents expressed heartbreak at the deaths of three American tourists at Sandals Emerald Bay Resort on Great Exuma on Friday, due to a cause that has not yet been formally determined, they also shared worries that the incident may negatively impact tourism.

On social media, there were indications that some would-be guests have canceled or plan to cancel their stay as a result of the deaths of the three individuals.

Officials say a man and woman were found dead in one villa, and another man was found dead in a nearby villa and his wife had to be flown to Nassau for care.

Yesterday, a man who said he had a trip booked to Sandals, tweeted, “My wife and our brother and sister-in-law had a trip planned to Sandals Bahamian to celebrate our anniversary. After news of these deaths, we want to cancel our trip but they are refusing to grant us a refund. Not a great position to be in.”

In recent months, Exuma has been a beacon of hope in the recovery of The Bahamas’ tourism industry, which suffered great losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island, famed for its crystal clear waters and pristine beaches, has been a choice destination for many seeking a more laid back trip.

Sandals Emerald Bay, a luxury all-inclusive resort, is a major employer in Exuma.

Armetia McIntosh, a taxi driver in Exuma, noted that the repercussions could be significant.

“Tourists here are concerned and they are wondering what really happened,” McIntosh said.

“… If I’m looking from the outside in, for those who are looking to go to Sandals or looking to come to the island, they would be worried.”

McIntosh added, “Once Sandals stops, the planes will stop eventually, so, that we don’t want. … We will feel the effects of it.”

Exuma Chief Councillor Kendal McPhee said yesterday, however, that he does not believe the incident will have a significant impact on the international perception of Exuma.

But he said it’s vital that the public gets answers soon.

“I know it’s a tragic story, what took place the other day, but all I can say is I think Exuma still will rebound. I don’t think it will impact us like that,” he said.

“My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones and I hope that when the investigation is finished, everyone will know how things went.”

He added, “Not only Bahamians want to know what happened; Americans want to know what happened also. Family members want to know what happened. And I hope … it’s brought to light.”

Local hotelier Dwight Hart said the impact could depend on what the investigations into the deaths conclude.

“Whenever you have a tragic event on the island, there is the potential for fallout,” Hart said. “And there is the fear of potential fallout. Without having all of the details or many details about the cause of deaths … there is still a mysterious cloud hanging around as to where this could lead.

“Sandals, obviously being a very well-known brand worldwide, draws a lot of attention. And anything negative that happens would have wide-ranging effects not only for Exuma but for The Bahamas in general. So, from a hotelier’s perspective, we are obviously concerned.”

He added, “Hopefully, whatever is the cause of the deaths [will become] known and it’s something specific and particular just to them and not some nefarious thing to begin with, and not something that could possibly impact others.”

Minister of Health Dr. Michael Darville, who, along with a team of health and environmental experts who traveled to Exuma after the bodies were discovered, said yesterday the team believes that the deaths were isolated and that there is no public health concern.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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