NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Ministry of Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu said notwithstanding two US agencies’ warnings against travel to The Bahamas, the country remains a desirable destination for travelers and is in a “prime position to capitalize”.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned travelers against non-essential international travel to The Bahamas.
The US Department of State also issued a ‘Level 4: Do Not Travel’ rating for The Bahamas due to health and safety measures and COVID-19 conditions.
“When you put it all in a bucket like that it just seems like we’re going against the storm,” Jibrilu said during a segment on Guardian Radio’s ‘Morning Blend’ with host Dwight Strachan.
“But what I want to say is we have faced these travel advisories in the past in The Bahamas.
“We have faced people, governments stating things that is certainly not favorable to us as a tourism destination.
“I want to say two things though. One, as a Bahamian, how do I feel when I hear that and what can I do to correct that perception?
“Again, we have to take individual responsibility to say are there things that are being said —if they’re not true, then that is a whole different thing — [but] if they’re things that we recognize to be true, what could we do to change it?
“So, our automatic response is to get mad, ‘how can they say that about us, that ain’t true’. So, we’ve got to do some self-evaluation here and say what are we going to do to change that narrative.”
As it relates to tourism, Jibrilu said against the odds and the warnings “whether fairly or not fairly” the available research data and market intelligence, including ‘blind surveys’ convey that The Bahamas remains a “desired destination”.
“There is pent-up demand for all the things we provide,” she said.
“People who have been in lockdowns or restricted mode from March, they want freedom.
“And to them, that translates to being on the beach, not necessarily surrounded by people, and that speaks to everything The Bahamas has to offer, so we’re in a prime position to capitalize on it.
“The people still see us as a great destination.”
In its ‘Warning Level 3 – Avoid Nonessential Travel’ notice, the CDC advised travelers to avoid close contact by remaining six feet away from anyone not from their household, wear a mask, frequently wash their hands, and avoid contact with sick people.
The US Department of State said: “Do not travel to The Bahamas due to health and safety measures and COVID-related conditions. Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime. Some areas have increased risk.”
It continued: “Travelers to The Bahamas may experience travel prohibitions, stay at home orders, business closures, and other emergency conditions within The Bahamas due to COVID-19.”
Jibrilu spoke ahead of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis address in Parliament yesterday afternoon, where he announced increased restrictions for New Providence and Abaco.
The restrictions include a nightly curfew from 7pm to 5am beginning next week Tuesday and a full, 24-hour weekend curfew beginning this Friday at 7pm until Tuesday at 5am.
Minnis announced beaches and parks will also be closed on New Providence and Abaco.
The prime minister said the measures have no effect on air travel or the current travel regime, and the international tourism sector opening remains set for November 1.
He advised that the measures were being taken to reduce the number of cases “in preparation for the broader opening of the tourism sector”.
Other islands, with the exception of Grand Bahama, which has a 10pm to 5am curfew, have resumed normal commercial activity with health guidelines in place.