Officials unveil two-phase reopening for sector
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism industry stakeholders plan to ‘test the market’ and effectiveness of new protocols outlined in the country’s tourism readiness and recovery plans in two weeks, as the country moves towards officially reopening to international commercial travel on July 1.
While speaking at the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee Tourism Re-entry Press Conference yesterday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar noted that a Phase I reopening of the tourism sector will begin on June 15.
“This Phase 1 opening of the tourism sector in intended to test the market and serve as a transition to our Phase 2 opening on the 1st July, as well as test the efficacy of the new protocols that are entailed in this plan,” he said.
“Phase 1 is expected to see the opening of the tourism sector with the return of boaters, yachters and private aviation being allowed to enter the destination. We are starting with these smaller special interest groups as they provide a more controlled segment; they all will pre-register electronically, allowing health officials to determine their risk level.”
The tourism minister also noted that during this phase, commercial airlines will be allowed to bring in Bahamian citizens, legal residents, home- owners qualifying for economic permanent residency, or the immediate family members or significant others of any of these groups.
D’Aguilar said: “All returning persons must register at a Bahamas embassy or consulate and obtain a COVID-19 test with a negative result. Additionally, we will see hotels being allowed to re-open with the ability to accept guest who are citizens of The Bahamas and the small group of anticipated visitors expecting to transit from private craft to boats and who may wish to stay in a hotel for one or two nights.
“This will enable staff to begin to return to work to put in place all the measures required to ensure that hotels are ready for opening on 1 July, as well as test out the health and safety measures.”
D’Aguilar acknowledged that travel and tourism will be markedly different from what it was prior to COVID-19.
“Many new policies, safety measures and precautions will be introduced to ensure the continued health & well-being of our residents and visitors alike.
“From start to finish, this will be felt at every single touch point of the vacation experience.”
Tourism Director General Joy Jibrilu noted that the Bahamas Tourism Readiness & Recovery Plan prioritizes the safety and well-being of the country’s residents and guests and proposes a whole array of new protocols and policy considerations as well as guidance on training.
Jibrilu said: “This plan incorporates the Ministry of Tourism’s marketing and public relations strategies for relaunching tourism; it lays out in minute details the protocols for sanitizing and enforcing social distancing practices in all arenas of the industry, from the airports, seaports, airlines, hotels, home rentals, to taxis, tour buses, jetski operations, stores, restaurants, excursion operations and attractions.”
Jibrilu said that tourism stakeholders remain ‘hopeful’ over the industry’s future, noting that a travel survey conducted in this nation’s source markets of North America and Canada, pointed to some 83 percent of consumers indicating that they are eager to travel on vacation.
According to Jibrilu, through a creative social media campaign the Ministry of Tourism has kept The Bahamas in front of travel consumers.
“This high visibility of our destination has increased consumer desire for travel to The Bahamas. Proximity has always been one of the driving forces of the success of Bahamas tourism, which topped out at seven million plus in 2019. We are strongly persuaded that this fact of geography will also aid us in our recovery,” she said.
Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) chief executive Vernice Walkine noted that the most effective protocols that could be implemented will be introduced at local airports.
Walkine noted these include sanitization programs, signage reminding persons to observe good hygiene, readily available hand sanitizers, social distancing markers, limiting close seating in hold rooms and limiting admission into all terminals to only travelers and airport employees.