BHA Working With Industry Partners To Prepare For The Storm

Tourism officials yesterday projected a loss of $1.84 million in cruise-related revenues from passenger arrivals to New Providence and Grand Bahama as a result of Hurricane Irene.

Carla Stuart, director of cruise development at the Ministry of Tourism, said the potential loss of revenue from the eight ships previously scheduled to call on Nassau might be as much as $1.5 million in passenger spend and head tax.

Ms Stuart said the loss of 12,827 passengers in Nassau could cost about $425,718 in head tax and $1.4 million in spend.

Freeport's potential losses, meanwhile, are calculated at 6,220 passengers, with a total of $111,960 in head tax and $263,354 in visitor spend for a total estimated loss of $375,314.

Six ships were in the port of Nassau yesterday, and all Carnival ships were out by last night. "At the port of Nassau, we are not expecting any ships until Friday or Saturday, when the weather would have subsided," Ms Stuart said.

The Norwegian Sky did not call at Freeport on Tuesday, but will call there on on August 25. The Carnival Pride will make an unscheduled call into Freeport on Wednesday.

Carnival has reportedly canceled its arrival into Freeport on Thursday.

Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA), told Tribune Business via e-mail: "The Ministry of Tourism has been encouraging guests to depart and, in most instances where cancellations are occurring, we are working to accommodate guests at another time in accordance with the industry's hurricane cancellation policies.

"Both the BHA and Ministry of Tourism convened our readiness efforts, through NEMA's ESF12 on Monday, and are actively working on a number of fronts to prepare for the storm."

Mr Comito added: "Even though the hotels in the Bahamas are fully prepared to accommodate our guests under these circumstances, we recommend that all visitors who wish to depart begin to do so starting today [Tuesday].

"The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is working with industry partners to request that change fees are waived, and liaising with hotels and industry partners to extend all possible courtesies to those affected in accordance with the industry's recommended hurricane cancellation policy affecting guests and those with reservations."

Bahamasair was yesterday operating all its flights as scheduled but, as of today, domestic flights will be limited to two departures to Freeport, Grand Bahama and one flight to Marsh Harbour, Abaco.

All other domestic flights have been canceled. Bahamasair said it will operate its morning flights into South Florida only. All other international flights have been cancelled.

The national flag carrier expects to close its operations at noon today, with all aircraft flying into Fort Myers, Florida, for safekeeping. The airline is expected to resume operations on Friday.

With the call for voluntary evacuations by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation and BHA late Monday, appeals have been made to airlines for additional airlift.

American Airlines added two 737s Wednesday out of Nassau to Miami, leaving at 3pm and 7 pm. AirTran is adding an additional flight today to Orlando from Nassau, departing at 12.30pm. JetBlue is on normal schedule and is considering adding another flight to New York on Wednesday

NEMA has asked that Family Island hotels assist with storing water in bathtubs or other secured places, given that water and sewage systems in many areas will not be operable for a few days.

Source: The Tribune