The island’s tourism game is still strong...
While McFarland caused a lot of damage, social media-wise, tourism -- the Bahamas’ No. 1 industry -- is still intact.
The country’s arrival projections are up 10.3% for the first quarter of 2019. “International arrivals to The Bahamas, including The Exumas, have grown consistently since October of 2017,” the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation said in a statement provided to Thrillist. “In spite of this unfortunate event, arrivals to The Exumas in 2017 were 27% higher than the previous year.”
Last year was just as fruitful for Exuma. “The 49,054 visitors the island attracted during the January–September 2018 period paces just ahead of the 61,906 total visitors to Exuma in 2017,” Stephen Bennett, Caribbean tourism expert and co-founder of UncommonCaribbean.com, shared with Thrillist.
Hotels are seeing similar success. Grand Isle Resort & Spa, which is just a small marina away from the lot that hosted the “festival,” has seen an increase in numbers since that fateful weekend, during which the property sheltered and fed festival goers.
One might conclude that Fyre Festival has maybe helped tourism in the Bahamas -- people are seemingly visiting the islands in droves to see where it all went down. But Bahamians and experts do not believe that is the case.
“While the festival may have raised awareness of the Exumas’ presence, we can attribute the increase of tourism to its exotic location that provides a deep sense of privacy,” Lester Scott, managing director of Grand Isle Resort & Spa, said. They believe their recent success is a result of strong promotion of what Exuma offers -- marine life, stunning views and swimming with the pigs -- is a much bigger draw than Fyre’s failure.
Bennett believes a new hotel in Nassau, an expansion in air service, and common sense allowed for much of the Bahamas’ growth since 2017. “I think that travelers today are smart enough to separate the mess that was Fyre Festival with the magic that is Exuma and the Bahamas.”