WEALTH OF INFO: Travel health visa a “powerful tool” in tourism marketing efforts, says minister

WEALTH OF INFO: Travel health visa a “powerful tool” in tourism marketing efforts, says minister

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that while the health visa requirement has had some impact on tourism arrivals, it serves as a very powerful tool for his ministry’s marketing efforts.

D’Aguilar, who was addressing a virtual meeting of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau, noted that applications for the health visa are continuing to rise.

According to the minister, the health visa has given the Ministry of Tourism a “wealth of information” on people visiting the country, which it can utilize in its online marketing efforts.

Dionisio D’Aguilar.

“If there’s one benefit to that, it’s a very powerful tool as it relates to marketing,” said D’Aguilar.

As of May 1, international visitors traveling to The Bahamas from other countries, who are fully vaccinated and have passed the two-week immunity period, are exempted from testing requirements for entry and inter-island travel.

On the heels of that announcement, the tourism minister noted there was a surge of health visa applications, which overwhelmed the system. He noted the government has since made the necessary adjustments to handle all requests.

D’Aguilar projected that the number of health visa applications this month will likely be in the mid-70,000 range, noting that there were 64,000 such applications in April and 60,000 in March.

“Speaking to the hotels, the major ones — Atlantis and Baha Mar — they are reporting to me that the pace of their bookings is encouraging,” said D’Aguilar.

“The pace is faster than it was in 2019 but that doesn’t mean they will have the same occupancy. People are looking for an opportunity to travel and, luckily for us, the US has done a very good job of rolling out their vaccine.”

D’Aguilar noted that one component of the tourism market that has not been as severely impacted by the pandemic is the high-end market.

“They have been coming here in droves on their private jets and their yachts. That component has been less impacted. They have been able to navigate the restrictions more easily,” said D’Aguilar.

The tourism minister lamented, however, that the country is in a “horrible” fiscal position.

“We are in a horrible financial position, certainly with the (fiscal) year about to end,” said D’Aguilar.

“We are going to be approximately $1.7 billion and we’re going to spend $3 billion so we’re running a deficit of $1.3 billion, which is huge. It is unprecedented. The pandemic has driven the deficit up a huge amount.”