While there is still no telling if or how badly The Bahamas’ tourism industry will be impacted by the global outbreak of coronavirus, the country has experienced an unintended benefit from the global virus threat.
Director General in the Ministry of Tourism Joy Jibrilu said because of travel warnings and restrictions to some of the impacted regions, companies are now looking to The Bahamas to host their group events.
“We have had an interesting scenario worth noting. In the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) market, people normally travel to destinations to hold those types of meetings – business meetings in particular. They are cancelling going to Europe and to Asia and are looking for other destinations. And so, we’re getting a lot of calls from people asking whether we would be capable of hosting such business at this time,” she said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“So there is also the possibility that we could see new business coming in as a result. But that is all contingent upon everything remaining equal and our borders staying unadulterated and clean and that we follow every protocol that’s in place.”
Still, she said the ministry is very concerned about the “very real” prospect of a coronavirus outbreak in The Bahamas.
“I think it’s a very real situation and it is a real problem in the sense that people are not feeling secure to travel. This part of the world thus far is doing okay and I think that is because there have been no suspected or reported cases. But if we look at the impact on Europe already, I think Italy is estimating $5 billion in losses due to tourism, if we look at China and the impact – and even the impact on the global economy – we know that it will have an impact,” she said.
“But, as I said, at the moment we are not experiencing any. Cruise has already been impacted, not to this region, but outside of this region. So global cruise numbers have been hit very hard as has travel.”
Currently the Covid19 Multisectoral Task Force, which was convened under the direction of the prime minister last month, has a stringent protocol in place for border protection to prevent the spread of the virus to The Bahamas.
“When I’m checking in to board a flight into Nassau, I have been asked if I have travelled to these impacted places in the past 20 days and if I have I cannot board the flight. So it begins at the point of check-in by our airline partners outside of the jurisdiction and then when they arrive into any of our borders – whether it’s customs and immigration and in the absence of police officers – they have been asked similar questions. So, we have been monitoring that very closely,” Jibrilu said.
The tourism official said at this time there’s little The Bahamas can do but brace itself and be prepared for whatever outcome is presented.
“We constantly go over the plan. Just today I informed the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board hotel partners and stakeholders and gave them an update from the task force, including that fact that we are one of the few countries that has the ability to test COVID-19 and everything that we had done. They were absolutely astounded by how far ahead we were as a country, looking at perhaps other jurisdictions that they may have similar operations in,” she said.