In February 2020 most vacation rental property owners in Exuma were thrilled with the bookings they had enjoyed since the beginning of the season, and were looking forward to an expected record season for the remainder of the year. The construction industry was going full speed to build more homes and new restaurants had just opened their doors for the first time.
Then the unthinkable happened. At first it seemed more like a rumor, that some flu like problem was causing problems on the other side of the globe. No big deal.
Then, in what seemed like a few days, what was page five news was front page news, and the new flu was everywhere…its a problem…its an epidemic….its a pandemic…stop the world I want to get off. Covid-19 was worldwide (except Exuma).
For the first time in living memory we were told to stop everything and stay home. Immediately the rental cancellations poured in. The shops shut. The streets emptied. In the civilized world the death rate soared.
In Exuma we looked to our government for guidance. Fortunately our Prime Minister is also a doctor, so he could see the potential health risks as well as the economic risks, and had to create a balance. By mid March we were under night time curfew on weekdays and 24 hour curfew at weekends. Only essential stores were open, and they restricted the number of customers in the store. Restaurants, many of which had sizable amounts of produce in store ready for regular business, suddenly were told to only provide curbside takeout.
Every year Exuma is populated with around four hundred visiting boats amounting to a population increase of around a thousand. Most are American and Canadian owned and the families come down to enjoy the beautiful weather that Exuma enjoys in the large and safe anchorage areas of Elizabeth Harbour and its many islands. Some are live aboard from many countries, some on a round the globe trip. All suddenly find themselves stuck, not allowed to move or even come ashore. All beaches are off limits to boaters and Bahamian locals alike.
All flights in and out of any of the many Bahamian airports are cancelled. Nobody in: Nobody out.
Now the decisions have to be made. Decisions that would normally be based on how long before normality returns. Would it be three months? would it be the year end? What about hurricane season which runs June to November? In our case we had an immigration card that allowed us to remain in our Exuma home until the end of May, at which time we would normally leave Exuma and return to the US. Were we safer in the isolation of a remote island, or in a large city in the US? Seemed like a no brainer. So we decided to stay and see what happened. If by the end of May things had not changed then we could apply for an extension to our stay.
Most of our future guests were as shocked and disappointed as us, to learn that their planned vacation was in jeopardy. Fortunately almost all decided to accept our offer to rebook for later dates.
So from late February until now, and on until the end of June, we have occupied our time doing any repairs or maintenance on the house, the garden, the car, exercising and perfecting our Skype and Zoom skills and watching too much television.
Now we see some light at the end of the tunnel. From July 1st tourists will be allowed to fly to Exuma. Quite which airlines will be ready, what their flight plans and costs may be, whether potential guests will feel safe flying, all remain to be seen.
So if you are ready for a vacation after this stressful experience Exuma, and Harbour View in particular, are ready to welcome you. Just bare in mind that:
There have not been any cases of Covid-19 in Exuma.
We will have been in isolation for over 100 days when guests return.
Sunlight is rumored to limit the spread of the virus
Social distancing will not be difficult in a one bedroom apartment
We have introduced a much more invasive cleaning regime between guests
We have a 16,000 acre deserted island in front of our home just waiting for your footprints.
Stay safe, we hope to see you.