Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas, and the country will struggle to get its tourism-based economy back on track for quite some time.
Dorian has been moving slowly over the islands. The storm made landfall Sunday over the Abacos Islands as a Category 5 with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. It has slightly weakened to a Category 2 storm. At least five people have died as a result of the storm.
The damage to the Bahamanian economy might be mitigated by the path of the storm, which is currently crawling over the northern Bahamas. As a result, it is devastating areas with fewer hotel rooms compared to other areas of the country, according to Rick Newton, a founding partner at Resort Capital Partners.
The Abacos and Grand Bahama Islands have roughly 2,250 hotel rooms, which amounts to less than 15% of the hotel inventory in the country, Newton said. That’s fewer than the roughly 11,000 rooms on the island Nassau, where mega-resorts such as Baha Mar and Atlantis are located.
“There will be a short term effect to tourism,” Newtown told CNN Business, but he said that “post-hurricane countries can recover” citing Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands as examples. He said the next challenge will be where the money will originate to help rebuild those parts of the Bahamas.
Bahamas is the most tourism-dependent economy in the Caribbean and tourism accounts for 60% of the Bahamas’ $9 billion economy. Newton said it’s too early to estimate how much money the damage will cost. A recent UBS report estimates that Dorian will cost between $15 billion and $25 billion in damage, including the United States, once it’s over.
Newton expects the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island will be “offline for awhile.” Some smaller hotels could be open before the high season begins in December, but it’s going to take “one or two seasons” before it’s back to normal. The airports on Grand Bahama and Marsh Harbour, Abaco are currently closed.
“It will come back and grace will shine its way through there,” Newton said.
Still, the damage caused by Dorian is “unprecedented and extensive,” according to Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis. Many homes and businesses are destroyed or heavily damaged and parts of Grand Bahama Island is underwater.
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation Director General Joy Jibrilu said in a release that she’s “deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of all those in Abaco and Grand Bahama Island” and that she’s “grateful that the majority of our 700 islands and cays have been unaffected.”
Dorian’s impacts on the tourism industry is now being felt in Florida as the storm moves closer to the United States. Disney announced some of its parks at Walt Disney World are closed or will be shortening hours until the storm passes. The company didn’t immediately return comment about how much money it will lose.