The Grand Bahama Island was devastated by Hurricane Matthew in October which caused immense damage to hotels, resorts and property on the largest of some 700 islands on the Lucayan Archipelago, which forced most of the operators to shut down their businesses for repairs. The tourism industry came to a standstill as flights and cruises to the Island were suspended and a number of hotels had also closed down.

The Island which depends heavily on its tourism industry has worked hard to speed up the recovery process and a number of major stakeholders came together to ensure that things can go back to normal at the earliest. The Ministry of Tourism held a press conference last week and gave the media an update on the recovery efforts and confirmed that things were progressing very well. The Hon. Obie Wilchcombe who is the Minister of Tourism also expressed his satisfaction at the recovery efforts.

Betty Bethel, Director for the Ministry of Tourism, Grand Bahama Island provided an update on flights and cruises to the Island. In a statement, Bethel said  “Flights are arriving daily via American Eagle, originating in Miami; Bahamasair and Silver Airways out of Ft. Lauderdale, along with Delta Connection’s weekly flight from Atlanta. Additionally, the Domestic/Non US Terminal is fully functional. Sunwing Airlines will resume flights from eight Canadian gateways – subject to re-opening of its parent property, Memories Grand Bahama Beach Resort.”

The Balearia Bahamas Express has resumed normal operations from October 25 and offloads day trippers from Ft. Lauderdale, while the Carnival Cruise Lines have started operating from November 7. The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line begins operations from November 16 and Norwegian Cruise Lines are expected to commence services from November 22.

Bethel also confirmed that the hotel industry on the Island is also on the incline as the Pelican Bay Hotel and Suites which has 184 rooms, the waterfront Flamingo Bay Hotel with 68 rooms, the Royal Islander Hotel downtown with 100 rooms, the Sunrise Resort and Marina with 31 rooms and the Bell Channel Inn with 31 rooms are now open for business. Castaways Resort has opened 80 rooms for business but is still in recovery mode which is expected to be completed shortly.

Some of the major adventure spots on the Grand Bahama Island like the Pirates Cove Waterpark, Port Lucaya Marketplace, Ocean Motion Water Sports, Bahamas Adventures and Paradise Cove are also open to the public. Popular tourist hangouts such as the Garden of the Groves, Grand Bahama Nature Tours, Ruby Golf Course, Perfume Factory and the Dive In Bar and Grill have also opened for business.

Director Bethel stated that as the island rebuilds, “The Ministry of Tourism will use this as an opportunity to retool and improve the skill sets of our people in the industry, commencing with a Customer Service Skills Training.”

That training started Monday, November 14th with a group of 140 staff from Treasure Bay Casino.