Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that a critical component of the reopening of the tourism industry is ensuring there are sufficient flights bringing tourists to the country, which is why increased airlift is important.
While the private aviation sector catered exclusively to the high end tourism market over the past few months, D’Aguilar said the reinstatement of commercial flights is an absolute must to restart the tourism sector.
Currently only JetBlue and Air Canada have limited weekly scheduled flights.
D’Aguilar said early indications suggest commercial airlines are eager to come back to The Bahamas.
“American Airlines starts this week and Delta and Southwest are poised to restart in early October, once they learn that the tourism sector is back up and running,” he said.
“Understand that the schedules are extremely limited given that current demand levels are not as robust as they once were.”
On the domestic side, local air carriers are expected to get the green light to resume inter-island flights by week’s end and international flights some time in the next month.
“With regard to Bahamasair and other domestic carriers, it is expected that they will be allowed to commence domestic operations in the latter part of this week, while international operations should recommence closer to the date when the tourism sector reopens,” D’Aguilar noted.
As for cruise lines, which contribute the most to tourist arrival numbers, D’Aguilar said it seems unlikely the industry will see a resurgence until closer to the end of the year.
“Unfortunately, there is no good news to report. I have been in discussions with all of the major cruise lines and none of them have received any indication from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) when their no sail orders will be lifted,” he said.
“Right now, all of the cruise companies have voluntarily agreed that they will not be sailing until October 31, 2020 but sadly, it seems very likely that cruising out of the United States will not recommence until possibly late November or early December.”
Regarding the two major hotels on New Providence – Baha Mar and Atlantis – D’Aguilar said firm dates have yet to be settled.
“I have been in a number of discussions with the CEOs of Atlantis and Baha Mar to ascertain what their current thinking is about reopening and I am hoping they will make some announcements, very soon, with concrete opening dates. Naturally, given the enormous amount of resources required to relaunch properties of their respective sizes, they want to be assured of an economically sustainable customer base when they reopen. As such, they are assessing a myriad of issues, mostly relating to state of the pandemic in their core market, the United States, before they commit to an opening announcement,” he said.
“I want to assure the Bahamian people and the workers in those two anchor properties, that we, in the Ministry of Tourism, are doing everything that we can to make their opening a reality as soon as possible.”