Attract long-term, safe travelers, says Bassett

Attract long-term, safe travelers, says Bassett
Courtesy of the Bahama Out Islands Promotion Board

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Pointing to a resurgence of cases since the country reopened its borders to international commercial carriers, Bahamas Doctors Union (BDU) President Dr Melisande Bassett recommended the government change models and seek to attract long-term travelers to The Bahamas over the short-term visitors who could pose greater risks.

As of July 1, which marked the country’s reopening, there have been 34 new cases of the virus.

The total number of confirmed cases stands at 138.

Some of the new infections were the result of repatriating residents.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Bassett suggested the government may be going about the reopening the wrong way.

She said she has been asked by people abroad wishing to travel to The Bahamas to work remotely due to the COVID safety levels in The Bahamas.

She said this is an opportunity that could be explored.

“Maybe this may be a chance for us to say this is a different type of tourist that we are allowing in,” Bassett said.

“This is not a tourist who is spending one week or two weeks for vacation.

“Maybe this is who we are enticing because we have done so well to eradicate the virus, this is now a safe haven for you to come; to bring your family; to spend more than two weeks because we quarantine you for two weeks, but after that you know you can relax, and can be safe.

“Maybe that need to be our approach.

“I think we need to sell that: ‘we are a safe place for you to bring your family’.

“Most New Yorkers complained they didn’t have space; they couldn’t go out. If we can ensure these people have been quarantined for 14 days and it is safe, they may come here for six months.

“They may rent an Air BnB; we may be able to inject money into the economy.

“I see people — foreigners in Air BnB’s in my area, so people want to come in and just not for the short-term, it’s for the long term.

“But it needs to be investigated to see the viability of it and not just limit our thinking to what we’ve experienced in the past.

“This may require a paradigm shift into a new area, but I think we did not well compared to the rest of the world. We kept everybody safe. We kept our numbers down, and I think that is something we can sell to the rest of the world.”

Reflecting on the country’s response to the pandemic in the first 12 weeks, Bassett said the country did very well with the first wave in the first 12 weeks and she was proud of the government’s efforts and its ability to listen to medical experts.

“It was a scientific response to a scientific problem, and we didn’t use emotions; we didn’t use politics; we came out with what we needed to do to bring that curve down,” she said.

“Now, we’re at a point again where the government is struggling to keep the economy going and protect persons lives.

“We understand that, but on the flip side of that argument is if we expose our population — that high levels of [comorbidities] puts them at risk for contracting the disease and for poor outcomes — then we are doing our own countrymen a disservice.

“We need to be careful of that. I think any balance that puts people’s lives at risk isn’t really a balance. For me that’s a no-brainer. We have to make sure Bahamians are safe.”

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced travel restrictions on incoming commercial flights and vessels, with the exceptions of the United Kingdom, Canada and the bloc of countries that comprise the European Union.

All incoming international commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers outside of those exempted countries will be prohibited from entering The Bahamas.