Dionisio D'Aguilar, Bahamas’ minister of tourism and aviation

Caribbean government, tourism and private organizations are assisting the Bahamas’ Abaco and Grand Bahama Island communities following the severe damage the districts suffered during Hurricane Dorian.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is spearheading relief efforts via an online resource center collecting monetary donations on behalf of the Bahamas Red Cross, the National Association of the Bahamas and the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

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Resource funds are also being directed to Hurricane Dorian relief fund programs established by the Atlantis Paradise Island resort and Royal Caribbean International.

In addition to monetary donations, the resource center is also seeking donations of goods including building and cleaning supplies, home goods and safety and hygiene products. Five collection centers have been established in Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Pompano Beach, Fla.

Furthermore, the Bahamas government on September 2 issued an emergency order waiving taxes on imported goods to be used for charitable purposes and restoration directly related to Hurricane Dorian damage.

“There are no words to convey the grief we feel for our fellow Bahamians in The Abacos and Grand Bahama,” said Dionisio D’Aguilar, the Bahamas’ minister of tourism and aviation.

“Now is the time to come together for our brothers and sisters in need and help our country get back on its feet. We also implore travelers to continue visiting the Bahamian islands that were not impacted by Hurricane Dorian as this will help our people tremendously.”

Aid From Within

Locally, The Abaco Club on Winding Bay has launched a fund-raising effort to provide “immediate disaster relief for the residents of Great Abaco island,” said David Southworth, CEO of Southworth Development, which owns The Abaco Club.

The company also pledged to donate $1 million to Dorian relief efforts. The funds will “provide assistance to the people of Abaco in the form of food, shelter, medical aid and supplies, and assistance in the clean-up and rebuilding efforts,” said Southworth.

“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our staff members and other residents of Abaco,” he said. “There is an urgent need for immediate assistance on Abaco, and we are moving fast to provide that assistance.”

Southworth described Marsh Harbour, Abaco’s largest town, as “almost entirely destroyed.” He added, “Most sadly, it appears that there was also loss of life and hundreds of homes were demolished, leaving thousands of residents without shelter.

“We haven’t even been able to ascertain whether all of our staff members are safe yet,” he continued. “Communications systems are still down, power is out, roads are flooded or blocked by fallen trees. It’s a humanitarian disaster on an almost unimaginable scale.”

While Resorts World Bimini escaped damage from Dorian, company officials have “begun outreach to help in necessary recovery efforts throughout the Bahamas,” said Missy Lawrence, Resorts World Bimini’s president.

Lawrence said resort officials are working to confirm “the safety and well-being of the 200 team members who live and/or have family in Freeport/Grand Bahama Island or the Abaco Islands.”

The company has donated $50,000 to the RAV Bahamas Hurricane Relief Fund, which will be used to “purchase, transfer and distribute necessary supplies throughout the Bahamas in an expedited manner,’ Lawrence said.

“Our team leaders will work with the impacted individuals to determine short and long-term support plans, including emotional support,” she said.

Assistance From Abroad

Meanwhile, the Jamaican-based Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre has “begun to mobilize resources to assist the Bahamas following the devastating effects of hurricane Dorian,” said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister.

“We have begun the process, from the Centre, to reach out to the global tourism community, to mobilize resources to support the effort of bringing back the economies of our neighbor, as well as, to bring tourism resources,” Bartlett during a media briefing at the Jamaica Tourist Board’s Kingston office.

“We are now moving to get in touch with our partners such as major hotels, airlines and all major tour operators who are beneficiaries from tourism and who can, in fact, provide resource support to enable recovery in countries which are vulnerable and can be impacted.

Bartlett said the partners include Sandals Resorts International (SRI), which has launched a response mechanism through its SRI Foundation.

“All three of the Sandals properties in the Bahamas have been unaffected, which gives [SRI] the opportunity to focus on recovery and assisting however we can,” said Adam Stewart, SRI’s deputy chairman.

Stewart said SRI has donated $10,000 worth of water “as a first gesture to those in Abaco” through Bahamian non-profit group HeadKnowles. Stewart added that another Sandals partner has donated $100,000 worth of cleaning materials.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is additionally “appealing to its membership, travel industry partners, national hotel and tourism associations and all Caribbean tourism interests to support the islands of the northwestern Bahamas,” following Dorian.

CHTA is arranging an online auction through which “hotels throughout the Caribbean basin are being invited to donate room stays which the traveling public can bid on, with the proceeds going towards the long-term recovery,” said Frank Comito, CHTA’s CEO and director-general.

“We are working with Charity Buzz and the Caribbean’s 33 national hotel and tourism associations to organize the fundraiser which we hope to launch to the traveling public in the coming days,” Comito said.

Also, CHTA’s Education Foundation is “undertaking a targeted fundraising campaign, with proceeds going to help with education and school-related initiatives for the children in The Abacos and Grand Bahamas.”