NASSAU, Bahamas – The Bahamas government says many new policies, safety measures and precautions will be introduced to ensure the continued health and wellbeing of citizens and visitors as it prepares to “reinstate tourism to the country, and effectively reopen our economy”.
Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said since March 24, airports and seaports throughout The Bahamas have been closed to all incoming visitors, adding that given that the Bahamian economy relies heavily on the tourism sector, 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.”
He said travel and tourism will be markedly different from what it was prior to the coronavirus (COVID-‐19” and that 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.
“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,” D’Aguilar said, adding it 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,” he said noting that before the general opening on July 1, 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.”
The Tourism and Aviation Minister said also during that 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 one or two nights”.
D’Aguilar said 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,” he said, adding that the decision to allow the return of domestic flights on Monday “certainly allows Linden Pindling International Airport to test their protocols before welcoming guests when we reopen completely”.