NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Local tour operators say they are bracing for what is ultimately expected to be a slow rebound of the tourism sector, after an operational standstill for some six months.
Sonia Bowe-Adderley, principal of Island Escape Tours and president of the Tour Operators Association, said: “Everything in this segment has been closed down since March so the business has stopped. The major resorts closed their doors and not all of the airlines have been coming in which is how we get our business. The impact of the pandemic had certainly been felt.”
Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar recently told Eyewitness News that the country is still on track to remove the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for travelers on November 1.
He noted that with the new testing mechanism being implemented for travel, along with the access to up to 3 million rapid antigen tests, The Bahamas must attempt to jump-start the economy again.
The ministry has announced that it has formed a public-private partnership with the Living With COVID Coalition (LWCC) to secure millions of World Health Organization approved rapid antigen tests.
D’Aguilar noted that those tests will be able to support the ministry’s testing mechanism on arrival and four days after, to be able to remove the mandatory 14-day quarantine, which is a major impediment to tourism.
Adderley acknowledged that a 14-day quarantine was a tough sell for visitors looking to enjoy this destination.
“The Bahamas is about the food, the people and the culture,” she said.
“Those are things along with the people, our hospitality is what helps to distinguish us from other destinations and visitors want to experience that. They want the true Bahamian experience. I have clients who have been coming here for years and their first stop is Arawak Cay.”
Adderley noted that with the cruise lines to make their private island their preferred destinations when they resume sailing and many of the major hotel properties still closed, industry stakeholders should brace for a slow rebound of the tourism sector.
“Whatever happens is going to be very limited. I don’t see things bouncing back right away. People are going to be apprehensive and we’ve seen the US put out advisories on The Bahamas regarding COVID-19,” said Adderley.
She added: “We are going to adapt to the circumstances as this thing goes on. Our people have to understand the importance of wearing a mask, sanitizing and social distancing. We all have to get onboard in this fight. The lockdowns really aren’t helping anyone.”