NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamian tourism industry stakeholders are bracing for significant downturn in businesses as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the global tourism and travel industry.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar told Eyewitness News the Prince George Dock will be closed until cruise lines resume their call.
D’Aguilar furthered the country can expect ‘significant’ economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, with the tourism sector already feeling the effects.
He pointed to the extension of the United States’ 30-day ban on travel from Europe to include residents from the United Kingdom and Ireland; as well as the decision by the major cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC have suspended outbound cruises for 30 days.
Yesterday, straw vendors expressed concerns about the impending closure of the Downtown Nassau Straw Market; however, an official statement has not been issued.
Wesley Ferguson, Bahamas Taxicab Union President, told Eyewitness News the closure of the Prince George dock will inflict a major blow to more than 200 taxi drivers.
“About 250 taxi drivers operate out of the Prince George Dock and so obviously this is going to be a major blow,” Ferguson said.
“Fortunately the airport is still very busy. There are spring breakers and persons who have decided not to cancel their trips.
“There are however a lot of cancellations and that obviously reduces the heads in beds. So far we have not felt the full brunt. We hope the airlines will continue to fly here. We are still being prayerful and hopeful over the situation.”
Over at Arawak Cay, vendors say they are already feeling the effects of a tourism slowdown.
Arawak Cay Conch, Fish, Vegetable and Food Vendors Association president Rodney Russell said: “I know for sure it is going to impact the entire tourism economy of The Bahamas.
“Based on what trump has done it seems we are heading for an economic slowdown. It will definitely affect not only the Fish Fry but also persons in the straw industry and fast-food industry.”
Russell said: “We have to be more vigilant and try and protect ourselves. We are already beginning to see the effects of it. We have already seen a decline in business from persons abroad and visitors.”
The Bahamas reported a record breaking 7.2 million visitor arrivals in 2019, despite the impact of Hurricane Dorian to Abaco and Grand Bahama in September.
Speaking specifically to the cruise industry, D’Aguilar said the cruise lines have taken a major public relations hit with multiple reports of COVID-19 infected passengers on board vessels.
“They decided to shut down for 30 days and we were advised that none of the major cruise lines would be stopping in Nassau after (Sunday),” he said.
“The Prince George Dock will be closed until the cruise lines resume their calls. The economic impact of that will be significant. It seems as though the entire planet is on a shutdown and I think that overtime more nations will close their borders to ensure the virus doesn’t spread any further.”
When asked about the likely impact Bay Street merchants and other industry stakeholders will face, D’Aguilar said: “I’m sure the government will speak to it. The government is crafting a plan for this. The government is extremely mindful of what is going on and the impact it will have on the local economy.”