NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Government and the country’s major resorts must get on “the same page” regarding the reopening of the country’s tourism sector, a former tourism minister said yesterday.
Former Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told Eyewitness News suggested the government offer concessions and incentives to ensure that they rehire their full staff complement.
He said the continued rise in the country’s reported COVID-19 cases and deaths would be among the primary concerns for travelers.
“We must bring the virus under control. In the capital where we have our two major hotel properties the numbers are growing,” he said.
“We are not going to be able to attract the visitors we want. People want to come to a clean and safe environment. We have to focus on that, get the numbers down so we can then boast about that. I have said before we should forego this year and focus on next year.
“Our numbers are just too high. The numbers are growing and we are seeing more deaths. That’s not the signal we want to send to the world and to our visitors. They may have their issues in their home country but they certainly don’t want to vacation in a place that is not safe,” said Wilchcombe.
Wilchcombe said that he was also concerned that the government and major hotel properties like Baha Mar and Atlantis did not appear to be on the same page regarding the way forward.
Last Monday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said his ministry had recommended that hotels across the country resume full operations, including use of beaches, on October 15.
The Ministry of Tourism also 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.
Wilchcombe said: “Government has to work with the hoteliers to ensure they are on the same page. We have to get ready for the next season and ensure we open up with a bang.
“We have to have a serious campaign to get the business. The government has been assisting the major hotels with marketing and it is important to be very clear that the full complement of staff returns at both major properties.”
He added: “What does the government have to do, what does it have to concede to get everyone back to work. They can perhaps forgo taxes for six months or a year with the assurance that the hotels bring back all of their staff.”