The first sign that something is wrong at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island comes before it even enters: The Bahamian flag perched on the roof, flying with half the staff.
The flags of the nation, even the one above the luxurious water park and 3800-room hotel, were lowered in honor of the 51 people who died in the first days of September in Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm. that obliterated Big Abaco Island and flooded a good portion of Grand Baham. But even when hotels donate money and Delta Air Lines and cruise ships evacuate survivors and deliver ancillary supplies, the Bahamas tourism industry is desperate to send the message that, as terrifying as it may be, a natural disaster happened 1
This mourning nation is also a tourism-dependent nation. The Bahamas needs their tourists back.
"I was struggling with what was coming here," said Samantha Ping of Kentucky, who visited Atlantis last weekend with her husband, who attended a conference. "Will I lie by the pool while the people of the island fight far for food and water?"
Ms. Ping found a solution that would ease her conscience and save her vacation: She took the trip and used her free time in Atlantis to make sandwiches for survivors of the storm. Atlantis also offered a huge donation to one of their kitchens at World Central Kitchen, a relief organization that supplies hot food and sandwiches in disasters around the world. The Bahamas is a slow season, so while small groups of people linger in the pool and a few manage to cope with enough people to play pool volleyball, a lively kitchen inside prepared disaster food that looked like "
" six more girls made 5,000 turkey sandwiches and 5,000 tuna sandwiches, "says Christine Stramiello, a waitress from New Jersey who arrived in Atlantis just days after the hurricane that struck for a three-week vacation," I'd feel so guilty if I came I didn't help here. "
Mrs. Ping and Ms. Stramiello are among the thousands who have already booked vacations in the Bahamas and were left with the unpleasant choice of canceling their travels or traveling knowing that the tragedy had occurred. Travelers called and emailed hotels to find out if it was safe. Did the power come on? Will evacuees share hotels with tourists?
Many passengers were scared and shook their plans. Hotels in the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas have noticed "double-digit and three-digit" cancellations, the tourism ministry said – even those located nowhere near destruction. In response, the ministry released a map showing that of the 16 Bahamas tourist islands, 14 were "open for business". Popular destinations such as Eleuthera, Ekuma and Bimini are also unaffected by the storm.
"If a hurricane hits Jacksonville in Florida, that doesn't mean you won't go on vacation in Miami or Fort Lauderdale," said Dionisio J. D Aguilar, Secretary of Tourism and Aviation. "That's the analogy, Unfortunately, people are geographically challenged. "
The 700 islands that make up the Bahamas are different in size, extending 750 miles. Hurricane Dorian knocked out Nassau's power supply for several hours, but left no damage.
Mr. D & # 39; Aguilar acknowledged that some people, like Ms. Ping, knew that places as Nassau did well in the storm, but still consider it "inappropriate in times of tragedy and disaster" to rest there.
"More than ever, we need you to come on vacation "," he said. "Only in this way can we help our brothers and sisters in the north."
While still trying to strike the balance needed for a comforting period, the Bahamas Ministry is in full swing of the soft start campaign, which tries to push the idea that the country – most of it, anyway that – is open for business.
About 4 million people visited the Bahamas in the first six months of this year, contributing to approximately half of the country's gross domestic product. About 20 percent of travelers visited Abaco and Grand Baham.
Abaco, who had just launched direct flights from Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, was particularly hit. Nearly 300,000 tourists have visited there from January to July this year, but this business has already been halted for the foreseeable future.
The Bahamas is backing a huge blow to its national economy at a time when it needs money.
"If they don't come, we will have no revenue to recover," says Allison Tommy Thompson, deputy director general of the tourism ministry. "We really need them to come, stay an extra day and spend an extra $ 50."
He spreads the word in social media and in media interviews, and the country will continue advertising "Fly Away" a campaign started earlier this year featuring singer Lenny Kravitz. Once the hurricane season is over, more aggressive promotion is planned, including billboards and station advertisements.
"We are sensitive to the fact that so many of our siblings have lost everything," said Mr Thompson. "But we have to be firm. We are the Ministry of Tourism. Our job is to attract visitors to the Bahamas. It may sound cold, but if we don't have visitors, everyone will suffer. "
Benjamin Davis, general manager of the Warwick Hotel on Paradise Island, said the hotel saw about 8 percent of its
" There were people calling to ask if we would be open in January 2020, " he said. When Dorian struck, Warwick never closed.
He was touring the property where a group of women celebrated his 40th birthday and a waiter showed his chops as a singer.
A few miles away in downtown in Nassau, where cruise ships dock, tourists shop for trinkets without disaster.  Pam Smith, a retired nurse from Long Island, New York, said it was a difficult decision to move forward with his vacation plans. She realized that her tourism dollars were needed not only by the government but also by hotel workers who had taken relatives who had lost their homes.
"In the beginning, it's like, 'What am I doing here when people come here to Nassau to stay in the shelters? "- she said. "Do I really want to be here when such a tragedy happens in another part of the Bahamas? But look at all these people who work here. They need us here. ”