Tourism has been an integral part of the Bahamian economy since the demise of the cotton, sisal, sponges, lobster, legume, salt and plywood industries in the 1860s (Tourism History). The first hotel was built on New Providence in 1861; from then the tourism industry was booming with it making up 50% of the gross domestic product and 70% of the population being employed in the industry. Unfortunately, The Bahamas lies in the North-Western Caribbean making it suspectable to experience natural disasters such as hurricanes. These hurricanes cause major damages that impact residents and their homes, the education system, and primarily the tourism industry, Specifically on Grand Bahama we are no strangers to hurricanes recently experiencing Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and now Hurricane Dorian in 2019, both completely turning the tourism industry upside down. In 2016 Hurricane Matthew destroyed many and one being the lucrative Grand Lucayan Hotel. Now in 2019, Hurricane Dorian has destroyed the international airport and several business establishments that rely on tourism. The question everyone is asking now is how do we recover? And what is needed for recovery?
To fully understand this, I conducted an interview with a local insider, Keith Cooper owner of West End Ecology Tours on December 2nd of 2019. West End Ecology Tours was started in 2011 as a non-profit organization, and thought-out Mr. Cooper’s learning experience about the eco-system out at Sandy Cay he decided to start taking tourists out and making a profit. During this interview, I asked him seven questions regarding the tourism industry and how the hurricane-affected his business.
Like most businesses, Keith Cooper does not receive much assistance from the government but he takes advantage of any workshops they provide for business owners. He did mention to me that he and the government of The Bahamas have worked together in several cases where they provide the clients (who create advertisements) and he provides a service that makes The Bahamas look more favorable.
When asked what he thinks is necessary for the recovery of the tourism industry, Cooper replied stating that the reduction of the cost to travel by air is important as well as building more airports around the island so that in the event of another hurricane services will not be disrupted as it is right now.
I also asked Mr. Cooper what his business needs to recover. To which he said more help. Since the hurricane, he has received more bookings that require more people. Since he is the only one he would appreciate more skilled workers in this field to aid him.
If Mr. Cooper’s suggestions are taken into consideration the tourism industry on Grand Bahama should be well on its way to a full recovery.