D’Aguilar suggests resorts responding to “enormous” amount of reduced airlift
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Sandals Resorts International (SRI) has once again pushed back the reopening of its Royal Bahamian resort on New Providence to the end of May.
According to the company’s website, the resort will now reopen on May 1.
The resort, which was originally slated to reopen on January 28, pushed back the reopening to March 31.
Royal Bahamian and Emerald Bay on Exuma are among the last of the resort chain’s hotels to reopen in the Caribbean.
Emerald Bay reopened last week, according to the resort’s website.
SRI announced that Sandals Grenada will reopen on March 31, Sandals Barbados on April 2 and Sandals Royal Barbados on April 2.
When contacted, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said while The Bahamas has done well with implementing a range of policies and measures that have kept coronavirus cases low, those measures can represent impediments to the average traveler.
He also pointed out that key markets in Europe and elsewhere continue to experience increased restrictions, lockdowns and travel bans in certain instances, due to surges of cases and emerging COVID variants.
“And then you’ve got Canada, which has banned all flights to the Caribbean until April 30; no direct non-stop flights from Europe; and they’re all locked down — opening and shutting down, locking down left, right and center. So, they’re in a state of turmoil,” D’Aguilar said.
“All of these concerns have really impeded international travel.”
He said the Ministry of Tourism must continue to focus on ensuring a seamless process of travel in the COVID era, such as maintaining its swift turnaround of health visas, for example, and increase the awareness among travelers about the ease of compliance with The Bahamas’ travel regime.
Additionally, D’Aguilar said the cruise sector remains at a standstill.
“Within the stopover, what we’ve noticed is the very high-end products continue to do better than the products that focus on strata of tourism, that focuses on mass tourists,” he told Eyewitness News.
“I’ve had a comment from one high-end property in Nassau, for example, where the operator of that hotel said that it was the best Christmas they have ever had; better than last year.
“The affluent are finding it easy to navigate all of these health protocols that have been implemented in all of these countries. I’ve spoken to a hotel operator in North Eleuthera who made the comment that ‘whatever y’all are doing, working for me’.
“But the bread and butter of our tourism industry — the Atlantis, the Baha Mar — obviously have greater inventory than those smaller places [that have] a relatively small number of rooms, and have a more unimpacted traveler. That hotels that have far greater inventory and far greater rooms are being impacted by the perceived difficulty in traveling.”
He said there is an “enormous” amount of reduced airlift and increased entry protocols, including health visas and PCR COVID-19 testing.
The minister said the turnaround time for health visas is around six hours in most cases, and that process continues to work “extremely well”.
He said the tourism sector is a long way away from a rebound, but vaccine programs the world over should expedite tourism activity.