NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday made clear The Bahamas remains open to American visitors, though their mode of entry into the country has been restricted to private aircraft and pleasure crafts.
A number of US media outlets, including CNN, carried headlines suggesting US visitors had been barred from entering the country.
Prompted on these reports on the sidelines of a ceremony at Government House, D’Aguilar said: “That’s simply not true. The Bahamas is open to the United States, you just cannot come here by commercial aircraft.
“You can come here by private aircraft or by pleasure boat, so that was incorrect and we are going to correct that.”
During a national address on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced that all incoming international commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers outside of certain exempted countries will be prohibited from entering The Bahamas as of July 22.
Exempted destinations include the United Kingdom, Canada and the bloc of countries that comprise the European Union.
However, private international flights and charters, as well as private pleasure craft and yachts from all countries may still to enter The Bahamas.
The minister said he does not anticipate push back from the United States.
“I think they see what we did and why we did it, and once the numbers from Grand Bahama settle, they will understand why we did what we did,” he said.
On the impact of the closure on tourism, D’Aguilar said the decision will have a significant impact and “we have to rethink our strategy as it relates not only to visitors but also to our own citizenry moving in and out of the country”.
While international commercial carriers from the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union may enter The Bahamas, D’Aguilar said there have been no incoming flights from Europe and one flight per week from Canada.
“We need to fix our interaction with the United States, both our people going in and out of the [United] States and the protocols they will now have to undergo when they return,” he said.
“Obviously, the ones we were using with the foreign visitors — from the evidence I have right now in front of me, I have no known cases created by foreign visitors coming into the country.
“They were all following the protocols, getting the COVID tests; we were screening them before they came. So, I think that was working well.”