Atlantis extends closure, no reopening date announced

Giving no indication of a reopening day, Atlantis Paradise Island announced on Friday that it is extending its closure due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Atlantis previously intended to reopen on July 15 and extended its reopening to July 31, after closing the resort in March as a part of emergency orders.

However, in recent weeks, the U.S. – which accounts for 80 percent of The Bahamas’ foreign visitors – has seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases.

In a release, Atlantis President and Managing Director Audrey Oswell said the difficult decision was made to prioritize the health and safety of the resort’s team, guests and the community first.

“While we are excited and energized by the opportunity to welcome our guests with warm Bahamian hospitality, we believe that extending our closure is in the best interest of public health at this time,” she said.

“During the extended closure, we will continue to make improvements to the resort, including the renovation of The Royal guest rooms.”

The Bahamas’ borders were opened to international commercial flights for the first time since March on July 1.

Since then, approximately 6,000 visitors have traveled through Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).

Additionally, the country has seen an increase of 49 cases of COVID-19 since the borders reopened.

When contacted by Guardian Business yesterday, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar called the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. the resort’s greatest hurdle at the moment.

“The seemingly lack of control on the spread of this pandemic is, in the eyes of the operators of that hotel, the single greatest hurdle to opening. If you have the massive amount of positive cases every single day, it is in their minds – the owners of Atlantis – a difficult hurdle to cross, to encourage people to travel. That’s the first reason,” he said.

“And the second reason is you don’t want to, in their mind at least, be pushing to grow, substantially, visitor arrivals from a market, which is so domineering in our tourism book of business – i.e. the United States is 80 percent of our tourism business – you don’t want to be trying to drive sales when you’re dealing with the headwind of this pandemic. And so, until the United States settles down a little bit or a lot, they just don’t think that it is viable in their minds to restart that big baby over there. I think the decision is driven mostly by what’s happening.”

D’Aguilar’s comments came before Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday that he was closing the border to commercial flights from U.S. destinations.

The prime minister did not say how long the travel ban would remain in effect.

For its part, Atlantis stated it is tracking new information daily on the COVID-19 pandemic and will share reopening updates on its website and through its social media channels.

Atlantis is the single largest private employer in The Bahamas.

Thousands of furloughed employees were eagerly awaiting their return to work at the end of the month.

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