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Bahamas a ‘difficult’ sell with current travel requirements

It is unlikely tourists will come to The Bahamas to quarantine for 14 days, Deputy Director General of Tourism Ellison Thompson said yesterday, adding that tourism figures are “pretty grim at the moment”.

Under the latest emergency order, which was tabled in the House of Assembly by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis last week, a visitor arriving “on an international commercial air travel” shall be permitted to enter The Bahamas and must at his own expense submit to mandatory quarantine in a government facility for a period of 14 days upon arrival in The Bahamas and must undergo an RT-PCR COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test at the end of the 14 days.

Asked whether the the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation expects many visitors following this new order, Thompson said, “Would you? It’s going to be difficult. I don’t see many people taking advantage of that opportunity.”

He added, “It’s a challenge for us. A number of our partners are pointing out that it’s kind of difficult for them to sell The Bahamas with that in place because the average stay from the US is like four days.

“So, how are you going to quarantine for 14 days if you’re only coming for four days? It’s giving us some challenges.”

Thompson noted that there has been “a significant decrease” in tourist arrivals since March, which was when the prime minister ordered the closure of The Bahamas’ borders to visitors, residents and Bahamians following the announcement of the first local COVID-19 case.

The borders were fully reopened on July 1.

A nightly curfew has remained in place since that reopening and the prime minister has sporadically ordered the closure of beaches and parks on islands like Grand Bahama and New Providence.

On July 19, the prime minister announced in a national address that commercial travel was being banned, except from the United Kingdom, Europe and Canada.

He has since reversed that decision, allowing commercial travel from anywhere, but with the stringent quarantine requirements.

“There were so many restrictions with that that the (tourism) numbers have not been brilliant at all,” Thompson told The Nassau Guardian.

“I don’t have the exact numbers on hand but the decreases in tourism arrivals are probably in the high 90s.”

He added, “Well, the numbers are pretty grim at the moment any way. It’s bad.”

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