Bahamas Town Hall on post-hurricane campaign

The Bahamas are very much open for tourism business and travel advisors should not hesitate to book their clients to all but the two islands most affected by Hurricane Dorian.

That was the message at a Town Hall event yesterday hosted by Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group and featuring Ellison Thompson, deputy director-general of the ministry of tourism and aviation for the Bahamas.

The event was streamed to TLG advisors around the country with a transcript released to the entire travel industry.

Among the points made by Thompson:

– All islands except Grand Bahama and the Abacos are functioning normally, including open airports and resorts. That includes Nassau, which is home to a dominant portion of the island’s tourism industry. Thompson stressed that the Bahamas encompasses 700 islands covering over 100,000 square miles of ocean.

– The islands have launched a new campaign called “Fly Away” to make the point that travelers should not hesitate to go. A social media campaign will feature videos featuring Bahamians like Lady Di, a pineapple grower. A video featuring Lenny Kravitz, the pop star, will also be distributed on social media. He is part Bahamian and has been active in promoting the islands and with disaster relief.

– Royal Caribbean will be stopping at Freeport on Grand Bahama in a week or so. It will not be a “normal” port of call, said Thompson. But it will be an opportunity to explore the island and help get activity started again. A number of Freeport attractions, said Thompson, were relatively untouched and visitors can help restore them.

– Travel Leaders Group has partnered with Royal Caribbean to offer up to $100 per passenger (depending on cabin category) to spend at sea for cruises booked October 1-7 for departures from October 18 that stop at Nassau and the line’s Coco Cay private island.

– TLG has launched a “Travel Helps the Bahamas” campaign that will include awareness and fundraising. TLG has also donated $36,000 so far to a home for displaced children in Nassau.

Thompson said that because the islands cover such a tremendous amount of water, they are “complicated to sell and that is why “we need advisors on our side to explain the destination.” He said the tourist office helps agents three ways: online, offline and onshore. Offline, agents are hosted at seminars and other educational events. Online, a Bahamas Specialists program offers the opportunity to earn rewards like Apple watches and digital cameras. Onshore, advisors can enjoy partial refunds on airfares for trips to the islands.

Chacko said that all TLG advisors are being trained to be proactive in encouraging clients to travel to the Bahamas. He said advisors are in “an extraordinary position to help shape vacation choices” and should tell clients that they are not just doing good but purchasing a high-quality holiday.