Traveling To The Bahamas After Dorian Is One Of The Best Ways To Help It Recover
Though Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas in September, canceling your plans to visit the archipelago would be a mistake. The Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island are still recovering, but over a dozen islands are continuing to welcome tourists. In fact, according to the Bahamas' tourism ministry, traveling to the Bahamas is one of the most helpful things you can do right now, and there are a few ways you can make sure your dollars are directly impacting locals.
Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas earlier in September, slamming the archipelago with 185 mph winds — but not every island was so heavily impacted. The Bahamas is made up of 700 islands spread over 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, and the nation relies heavily on tourism, with roughly half of Bahamians working in the industry, per the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. And with islands like Nassau, Paradise Island, and The Exumas virtually unaffected by the hurricane, the Bahamas can still benefit from visitors.
"Maintaining a robust tourism industry will be vital in helping the country to recover and rebuild," said tourism and aviation minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, Bahamas Minister of Tourism & Aviation, in a press release provided to Bustle. "We are grateful for the outpouring of support and love for our islands, and we would like everyone to know that the best thing they can do for us right now is visit Nassau, Paradise Island and the Out Islands. Our beautiful island nation is ready to welcome you." If you want to visit the islands in the coming months, here's how to do it responsibly.
Stay With Locals
As you look for lodging, think about staying in an Airbnb or a local hotel instead of an all-inclusive resort. Not only is it usually cheaper than resort accommodations and an easy way to help local property owners, but you'll also get a more authentic travel experience. If you decide to stay at a resort, Travel + Leisure has a list of hotels that are participating in relief efforts.
Join The Bahamas' People to People Experience
The Bahamas People to People Experience pairs visitors with local ambassadors who show you their favorite places around the islands, and based on reviews from tourists who have participated in the program, it's a good way to find local businesses to support. The ambassadors are all volunteers, and the Bahamian tourism ministry matches locals and foreigners based on their interests, age, and hobbies. So, for example, if you're a teacher looking to see what Bahamian schools are like, you can be paired with a Bahamian teacher through People to People. It's free, and you can sign up here.
"Every Bahamian has some role to play in the tourist industry," Willimae Salkey, an ambassador for People to People, tells Bustle.
"When they visit, we try to encourage them to see the products we make, our way of life, our food, our music, our entertainment," Salkey says.
Shop & Eat Locally
The Bahamas has American chain restaurants and stores you're probably familiar with and there's nothing wrong with getting a taste of home while traveling. But if you're going to the Bahamas and want to make the most positive impact you can on its economy, going to locally-owned stores and restaurants helps you do just that. The islands have authentic restaurants that are loved by tourists and locals alike, and U.S. News & World Report has a handy guide to popular Bahamian restaurants.
The Bahamas is still looking for health care professionals to help treat people affected by Hurricane Dorian, and you can volunteer even if you aren't traveling to an affected island. Volunteering on vacation is a way to give back to local communities, and you can pick the cause of your choice. Online directory Bahamas Local has a database with some of the Bahamas' charities, like Bahamas Feeding Network and Bahamas National Trust, and you can use Charity Navigator to make sure an organization is reputable before committing. You can also travel with supplies to donate to people in need.
Planning a vacation may feel counterintuitive if you've been thinking about supporting the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. But it may be the most effective way to show support right now. And if you can't take a vacation at the moment, there are still other ways to help the Bahamas recover, no matter where you're located.
Caroline Burke contributed to this report.