D’Aguilar: Tourism “well aware” of hotels’ position on reopening

D’Aguilar: Tourism “well aware” of hotels’ position on reopening
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D'Aguilar answers questions from the press

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The Ministry of Tourism was “well aware” of the position of a number of resorts regarding its recommendation for reopening on October 15, according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar, noting that government was looking to make its quarantine requirement for visitors “more palatable”.

Speaking with reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday D’Aguilar said, “We were well aware of the position of a number of the hotels. Clearly Baha Mar made an announcement in July that they would reopen on October 1.

“We had been in discussions with Baha Mar and Atlantis. A number of those large hotels indicated that they wanted to await after the American elections and possibly wait until just before thanksgiving, possibly before Christmas.”

He continued: “We said that’s fine, fair enough but we are going to go ahead and announce, get the ball rolling, get people to start thinking about it and get airlines in place. It takes a bit of time to get things ramped up and so we decided to go with October 15 as a date to get people to start thinking about it.”

Last week, the Ministry of Tourism  announced its ‘vacation in place’ (VIP) tourism initiative which seeks to flip the mandatory quarantine period into a luxury experience.

Following that announcement, however, Atlantis said it continues to evaluate its reopening timeline and that it will soon announce a specific reopening date.

Then, Baha Mar announced it had decided to delay its reopening further due to the current state of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas and key markets in the United States.

“Opening a large hotel is a very complex undertaking,” said D’Aguilar.

“There are so many moving parts that you have to put in place. In addition to that they have to be satisfied that their core markets out of the United States are in a position to travel right now. We think there is demand but there are certain impediments in place that make it a little more difficult to come to this destination; for example you need health visa.”

He continued: “You have to get a COVID-19 test. You have to vacation in place for 14 days. Some people see that as an impediment to travel but we understand why our health professionals are making those requirements.

“It’s not as tourism friendly as it could be but we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and we are constantly having to see how we can keep the effects of those protocols in place but in some instances ease them as much as possible.

D’Aguilar acknowledged that rival destinations have more relaxed travel restrictions.

“Anytime you have to be in a particular place for up to 14 day it isn’t as appealing. The Dominican Republic is opening up with no quarantine and no testing. That is what the competition is doing but I don’t think that we are prepared to go to the extent they have to open their economy. We are working with our public health officials so see what is feasible.”

D’Aguilar also agreed with recent comments by Baha Mar president Graeme Davis that vacationing in place was not an appealing proposition.

“Graeme Davis is probably right if I am traveling to a destination and not allowed to move out of that place it isn’t particularly appealing to me but in the case of his hotel there is a lot things for people to do so it would be easier for a hotel of that size to open and enjoy all the amenities.

“I understand that the smaller hotels may have a problem with that but we are trying to figure out how to work though this quarantining to make it a bit more palatable to traveling public and the businesses in the tourism sector.”