NASSAU, BAHAMAS — With the threat of COVID-19 still looming and likely to have a major impact on whether tourists are inclined to travel, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said we must ‘manage and temper our expectations’ as the tourism sector slowly ramps up.
Addressing reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting, D’Aguilar noted that the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with industry stakeholders has spent a significant amount of time developing protocols and strategies for the restart of the tourism industry.
He advised that a report will be released regarding those efforts.
“It’s really been quite amazing,” D’Aguilar said.
“All of the hotels, excursions, restaurants, retail and transportation businesses have been involved in endless meetings to determine how we would reopen and restart our tourism industry. Obviously the marketing strategy has been developed.
“We have been very quiet right now just using social media and very inexpensive ways to keep the Bahamas on top of people’s mind. Once we restart the industry we will launch a every comprehensive marketing program using all the various forms of media.”
D’Aguilar explained that the campaign will inform travelers that The Bahamas is open for business and that it is a safe and clean destination.
Still, the tourism minister acknowledged that the industry will take some time to rebound.
“You can’t discount the fact that 34 million Americans are out for a job,” he said.
“Their economy from which we receive 82 percent of our foreign visitors is not in the best position right now so we have to temper our expectations. It will probably be a slow ramp up and some are saying it could take a year to 18 months to get to where we were before. We have to manage and temper our expectations and allow for the industry to grow back up to where it was before.”
Some resorts have already announced their intentions to open within the next month or so. The government has announced that it intends to allow for the resumption of commercial travel in and out of The Bahamas on or before July 1.
Despite the uncertainty, D’Aguilar noted that The Bahamas has several advantages.
“A lot of people are probably apprehensive about traveling,” he said.
“What we think it is to our advantage is the fact that we are a short hop away and we have had every few Coronavirus cases and very few deaths comparatively. I think the social distancing and the sanitation methods employed have been successful. We have to get that message out to ensure that people are willing to take the journey.”
He continued: “I’m of the belief that tourism is very resilient. We have suffered many shocks before. Obviously this going to take some time for it to bounce back but bounce back it will.
“There will be a lot of jurisdictions in the Caribbean competing for the same persons, so we have to be on our game, with service, make people feel comfortable and that this is a safe and clean destination.”