NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Veteran tourism professional, Frank Comito, is expected to share a regional and national outlook for tourism and insights about the industry’s disaster response at the upcoming Bahamas Business Outlook.
The event is slated for January 16 at Baha Mar Resort.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, the Caribbean and The Bahamas has a lot of experience in dealing with crisis situations like hurricanes. And we also know that we are incredibly resilient. We tend to bounce back fairly well,” said Comito, CEO and Director, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association.
“We’ve learnt a lot over the years in the region as to how tourism and economies are impacted as a result of these kinds of situations, and what some of the factors are that help us to rebound as quickly as possible.
“So we will share some insights in terms of lessons learned, particularly in recent years with hurricanes Irma and Maria, look at some of the data behind all of this and give an indication of how quickly things can bounce back from a tourism point of view after Hurricane Dorian.
He said: “I will present some benchmark information that will hopefully add some insight that can give assurances in some ways but also some challenges for the destination in other ways.”
While experience has been a good teacher for The Bahamas, Comito also believes that the resolve of tourism stakeholders plays a role in the industry’s post-storm resilience.
He praised the Ministry of Tourism, the Bahamian government and industry leaders for understanding “the critical, delicate nature of the tourism industry and how readiness and response has to come into play so effectively”.
One effective and relatively swift response in the wake of Hurricane Dorian was the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing campaign to inform the world that The Bahamas is still open for business despite damage to Grand Bahama and Abaco.
“It’s really important for the traveling public to know and understand the geography of The Bahamas,” said Comito.
“The Ministry and the tourism industry do a great job with getting information out there that is accurate, that educates the public as to the geography and the extent to which a storm or situation may affect one part of The Bahamas but doesn’t necessarily affect the rest of The Bahamas.
“So all of those kinds of things—effective communication, effective planning—are important and come into play in order to mitigate the extent of the economic impact from situations like [Hurricane] Dorian.”
In the area of external communications, Comito said that crisis management must also include a plan to monitor and counteract negative comments on the Internet.
He noted that his office flagged “a lot of misinformation” that was posted as comments to social media stories after Hurricane Dorian.
“The whole game has changed dramatically because anybody has the power to communicate nowadays effectively and externally,” Comito said.
“So I think, part of the challenge going ahead is, how do we more effectively manage the messaging and the communications without hiding anything? Certainly we want to be candid with what’s going on. But how do we mitigate the impact of incorrect, inaccurate information that can get out there through social media and the damage that that can cause.
“It can also do harm to the destination, the people of The Bahamas, as well as government revenues and employment and so on as people perceive externally a situation that may not be reality.”