Fyre Festival: Bahamas news outlets slam the disastrous music festival


You've seen the horror stories on Twitter and Instagram: people shelling out thousands for tickets to Fyre Festival, only to encounter a disaster when they reached the Bahamas.

Here in the United States, at least one angry attendee has already slapped the festival with a lawsuit. But what has the experience been like for those in the Bahamas — especially for the officials who rely on tourism as a crucial industry?

Local reports from Bahamian outlets reveal just how disappointed some are with the failed event, and how terrified tourism officials are about the lasting negative impact that the now infamous Fyre Festival could have on the entire country — especially Exuma, the district in which the festival was supposed to be held.

Exuma Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Rolle told the Nassau Guardian, a Bahamian paper, he was concerned the failure on the part of the festival's organizers, rapper Ja Rule and his business partner, Billy McFarland, would reflect poorly on the whole area.

"For some people, this is the first time they have ever heard the word Exuma ... So now they are associating Exuma with the Fyre Festival," Rolle said. "Now what that means is, because this has been a colossal flop, when they see the word Exuma it is going to be identified with this big failure."

"It just gives a bad impression of who we are and what we have to offer," Rolle said.

The doomed music festival

Some attendees paid thousands of dollars to attend Fyre Festival, which was advertised as a "cultural moment" with musical performances, daytime activities like jet skiing and yoga and luxury accommodations in "modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes." The festival was hyped by a crew of celebrity Instagram "influencers," including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.

But when festival attendees arrived last week, they found almost nothing was as promised — not the food, nor the accommodations nor the service. At least one person described the scene as a "disaster tent city."

Scheduled to take place over two weekends, the festival was abruptly postponed and festival attendees rushed to book alternate hotel arrangements and flights off of the island where the event was supposed to take place.

Complicating matters was the fact that an annual regatta was scheduled for the same weekend in the Exumas. In a scathing op-ed in the Tribune 242, a Bahamian news outlet, the paper's owner, Robert Carron, slammed the festival's poor planning in overlapping with an already busy weekend for tourism.

"As we all know, this Regatta is the highlight of the George Town social calendar," Carron wrote. "All hotel rooms, transportation, taxis and majority of the rental houses are booked years in advance for this week. Clearly, this would pose a logistical nightmare and preclude any additional tourists or locals from attending such an event as Fyre Festival."

Carron also criticized the apparent entitlement of both the festival organizers and attendees. 

"Everyone now knows that one cannot just waltz into a sovereign nation and demand that their wishes be catered to simply because you have a few dollars in your pocket or a trust fund," he wrote. "Clearly the promoters of the Fyre Festival seemed oblivious as to how offensive their conduct would be viewed by the Bahamian populace."

The Bahamas Weekly reported Monday that the Bahamas' Ministry of Tourism is working overtime to mitigate the potential public relations damage of Fyre Festival — and, it seems, to distance itself from the festival's organizers. 

In a statement, lead tourism official Joy Jibrilu said tourism is "our number one industry." 

Once the Ministry of Tourism "became aware of the shortcomings, we did intervene to mitigate as much as possible any fallout, and in particular to try and secure the welfare of visitors that came in for the event," the statement continued.

Jibrilu also offered an apology "to all who travelled to our country for the Fyre Festival," adding, "it is our hope that the Fyre Festival visitors would consider returning to Exuma and all the Islands of The Bahamas in the future to truly experience all of our beauty."