My husband and I are planning a trip for our 30th wedding anniversary. In the beginning, we had no particular agenda other than “someplace beach-y for a few days.” Puerto Rico was on our short list, because we knew that tourism dollars still matter there after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Then Category 5 Hurricane Dorian ravaged The Bahamas.
I know very little about the Caribbean, and nothing about The Bahamas, so I assumed that the entire nation was horribly damaged.
Then I saw this tweet below, from the Bahamas tourism organization, which surprised me when I realized that The Bahamas want visitors after Hurricane Dorian. A close look at their map showed the many Bahamian islands highlighted in yellow (below devastated Grand Bahama and The Abacos) that were NOT affected, and are still open for visitors….
The last few days have reminded us that together, we’re stronger. Let us return the love you’ve shown us by welcoming you the only way we know how–with open arms. #BahamasStrong pic.twitter.com/HOJ3Trkz7Y
— The Bahamas (@VisitTheBahamas) September 9, 2019
Several news media pieces highlighted Bahamian government statements about the need for travelers to visit, including this from Ellison “Tommy” Thompson, the deputy director general of the tourism ministry quoted in the Washington Post article screenshot at the top of this post:
“It’s going to take years to get those islands [Grand Bahama and the Abacos] back up, so we need the tourism revenue in order for us to sustain the reconstruction that’s going to be necessary,” Thompson says. “We definitely need the visitors to come.”
My husband and I shifted our anniversary plans.
Normally I don’t use travel advisors or travel agents for my trips; I’m comfortable doing my own research and booking. In this case, however, in the face of a tricky post-hurricane trip to a place we know nothing about but wanted to help, it was time to call in regional experts.
My old travel journalist friend Wendy Perrin runs something called the WOW List – travel advisors she vets and trusts who specialize in a variety of destinations and travel styles. I pulled up her list, found that Epperly Travel has expertise in the Caribbean, and hit the button on Wendy’s site to start working with them.
A few days and some forms and emails later (providing a lot of clarity about our not-massive budget, and desire for our spending to help locally wherever possible) here is where we are going….
We did some research and decided against going all-inclusive, so that we can get out into town on Harbour Island and spread our food spending around. If there are opportunities to volunteer locally – even just making sandwiches for a relief organization like World Central Kitchen with Chef José Andrés, who is working on the damaged islands right now – we’ll do it.
Yes, this trip planning feels awkward and a bit ghoulish, but I’m a lifelong traveler and have worked in the tourism industry for over a decade. I know how important visitors are to a tourism-based economy. A large part of Bahamian GDP relies on tourism, and just under 50% of Bahamians are directly employed in the industry.
I’ll be blogging on here about our experiences in The Bahamas. Have you ever traveled to a destination right after a crisis or natural disaster? Your advice is welcome down in the comments.
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