The director of the Association of Bahamas Marinas said its 48 member marinas have been “closing ranks” after Hurricane Dorian severely impacted five marinas in the northern Bahamas in late August. They included Treasure Cay Beach Marina and Golf Resort, Leeward Yacht Club and Marina, Hope Town Inn and Marina, Bakers Bay Golf and Ocean Club, and Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour.
“While the marinas all tend to compete with each other, we’ve closed ranks to help the ones that were hurt by the hurricane,” Basil Smith, ABM executive director, told Trade Only Today.
It’s almost a matter of necessity since 70 percent of the country’s GDP is based on tourism, and many of the smaller northern islands derive a healthy portion of their incomes from boating and sportfishing. ABM executives have also learned a lesson from seemed slow to get the message out that they were back in business.
Two months after Dorian, Smith and his colleagues are busy notifying boaters and fishermen in South Florida that the marina situation in the northern Bahamas has improved.
“The Grand Bahama Yacht Club sustained some damage, but has been able to get up and running,” Smith said. “Old Bahama Bay Resort and Yacht Harbour expects to resume full operation very shortly. While the Abacos and Grand Bahama must be withheld from the product offering while they recover, they are accessible — and usefully so — for boaters who need to access marina-based services.”
Getting boaters back to the marinas will be essential to the islands’ economies, Smith said.
“Treasure Cay’s big problem at the time was fuel, but now they have it,” he said. “They’re not back full-scale, but they are back. The waterways are also safe and no longer a concern. Much farther south at Marsh Harbour, the marinas are back up and running. Business has not returned to normal, but as long as we know it is coming, it will help. The local economy needs it to survive.”
ABM sent relief supplies to the islands after the hurricane, including fuel and food, with the assistance of Bahamas Ferries and a network from the United States.
“We opened and still maintain a bank account to handle donations for ongoing recovery efforts,” Smith said. “The marinas have recovered fairly quickly, so some of this is assistance in the broader recovery effort taking place around them.”
ABM also has been trying to get the word out that the Bahamas is open to boaters through social media campaigns, particularly in South Florida, from which many boaters travel to the islands. Partnering with the Bahamas Tourist Office and Out Island Promotion Board, it will amplify the message at next week’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, as well as later at the Stuart and Palm Beach shows.
“Our efforts in the large and superyacht end of the market are also continuing,” Smith said.
Joe Dargavage, vice president of the Association of Bahamas Marinas, said an aggressive publicity effort is critical now. “I asked everyone when I was in Monaco, and everyone felt like the Bahamas just got washed away,” Dargavage told the Triton. “My driver had a cruise to the Bahamas in December that he was going to cancel.”
“The storm was terrible — there’s no doubt about that,” added Peter Maury, ABM president and general manager of Bay Street Marina in Nassau, in the Triton story. “We’ve been through this before, and we can recover. To say we’ve been blown away is just not true.”
That’s the message ABM needs to keep reinforcing, Dargavage said.
“We know what happened in the Caribbean,” he told the Triton. “They waited too long [after hurricanes] to let people know how things were. I want to talk about it now.”
The association has sent emails to members and the press, noting progress on the most stricken islands. “Both islands are making great strides, particularly Grand Bahama, where Grand Bahama Yacht Club has reopened and Old Bahama Bay is scheduled for full reopening Nov. 1,” said an association email in mid-October.
“The single, most important thing that the boating and yachting community can do for the Bahamas and its people is to come visit,” said Darvage.
“The association is doing whatever is possible to support the damaged members, if only to reassure their loyal customers that they will back in the game sooner than later,” Smith said, adding that several marinas damaged by Dorian will be represented by ABM at FLIBS next week.