A Year On After Ja Rule’s Failed Bahamas Fyre Festival

A year on after the failed Fyre Festival created by Ja Rule and businessman Billy McFarland, tourism on the Exuma islands of Bahamas is doing well.

Local businesses such as restaurants and bars report tourism is up, and continues to rise regardless of the fame the islands received from the festival. In fact, visitor numbers have increased significantly year on year

Joy Jibrilu, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism director general, said in a 2017 press conference that Exuma “is experiencing the fastest rate of growth of any multiple-island destination in the Bahamas.” This proves Exuma was on the rise before the doomed Fyre festival.

Officials have yet to release the 2017 numbers, making it difficult to compare and deduce whether Fyre had a negative impact.

Fyre Festival was promoted and geared towards the wealthy but as soon as the people who paid between $1,500 and $250,000 for all-inclusive villa packages arrived, sub standard foods and less than adequate standard hotels greeted them.

“Exuma has the strongest brand presence of all the other Bahamian islands,” Noelle Nicolls, a Bahamas marketing and management consultant, said. “They can weather these big hits.”

The Island is more of a tourism product for couples, boaters, people who like water adventures, people who fish, families who come in for a beach experience.

Nevertheless, some people are still feeling the effects of the failed Fyre festival. A freelance festival manager who traveled from the U.S. to Great Exuma to hire 80 bartenders, lifeguards, and dishwashers is still unable to pay them. “They were really left behind in a lot of ways,” he said. “This was really not what they were expecting.

In addition, MaryAnn Rolle, proprietor of Exuma Point Resort, spent $136,000 of her own money to feed the festival workers. She has yet to receive payment. As a result, her business is under threat of bankruptcy.

“It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a lot you lost,” she said. “I really cannot allow Fyre Festival to cause me to just be here and cry over it. I have to put them in the back burner and move on to my business.”