Minister of Tourism & Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D'Aguilar. BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs
MINISTER OF TOURISM & AVIATION, THE HON. DIONISIO D’AGUILAR
TOURISM READINESS & RECOVERY
JUNE 2, 2020
Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us today.
This morning we will share with you the details of how The Bahamas will reinstate tourism to the country, and effectively reopen our economy following unprecedented measures taken to safeguard our nation in the face of the COVID-‐19 pandemic. Since March 24, airports and seaports throughout The Bahamas have been closed to all incoming visitors. The Bahamian economy relies heavily on the tourism sector, therefore, this decision was not made lightly.
The impact has been great. Yet we have faith that the resilience of the Bahamian people will shine through as it did in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Tourism, thus our economy, will prevail again.
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 & wellbeing of our residents and visitors alike.
From start to finish, this will be felt at every single touchpoint of the vacation experience.
Readying The Bahamas for tourism in the post-‐COVID world is quite complicated, with many nuances and considerations to plan for. The Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee was established to develop a collaborative plan for reopening and provide health and safety guidelines to be followed consistently across the country.
This committee, led by the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Hotel & Tourism Association, and representing a partnership between the public and private sector, has worked tirelessly over the last four weeks to tackle this herculean task. Countless individuals dedicated their time and effort to the development of the Tourism Readiness and Recovery plan, and the level of collaboration was truly astounding.
Before we go any further, I must thank the committee for the endless hours they put in for the benefit of The Bahamas. This is perhaps some of the most important work our country has undertaken, and every single Bahamian across our islands will feel the impact.
Because of the detailed plan that has been put forth, I can now confirm that our borders, hotels and transportation sector will officially reopen to international commercial travel on July 1.
In a few moments you will hear directly from the committee on specifics, but in the meantime I can tell you that this will be a phased opening. It is critical that health and safety protocols are being adhered to and that the Health sector remains well equipped.
However, before the general opening of our borders on 1 July, it is intended that a Phase 1 opening of the tourism sector will begin to roll out on June 15. 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.
Also 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. 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 1 or 2 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.
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 1 July, as well as test the efficacy of the new protocols that are entailed in this plan. It is important that once the destination opens, we are able to demonstrate immediately that we are indeed in a state of readiness.
The Ministry of Tourism is of course very pleased at the announcement made yesterday that will see the return of domestic travel between the Islands of The Bahamas for residents and we view this is the beginning of the whole readiness efforts. This measure certainly allows LPIA to test their protocols before welcoming guests when we reopen completely.
The July 1 opening of international tourism is part of Phase 2 and includes:• commercial airlines, both international and domestic
• hotels and vacation rentals, inclusive of Airbnb and HomeAway
• As well as transportation ranging from taxis to jitneys and buses
The timing of the other phases and sectors will be announced shortly.
Without further ado, I now turn the presentation over to the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee.