Boat tour operators adapting to new normal

Tour operators have been having a rough time managing throughout the pandemic with no tourists coming in, Blue Lagoon Island Public Relations Manager Jessica Robertson noted in an interview with The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

“I’d say, like with any other tourism-dependent company, it’s been rough,” Robertson said.

“But the company was in a really good position going into this and we have been lucky that we’re still here and we’ve been taking this time to really focus on what changes we need to make, what new protocols we need to put in place, how do we adapt to this new normal that we’re all opening up in.”

She added, “[We] look forward to getting back to where we were before this all started, which was, we were seeing record numbers.

“[I] don’t think anyone is expecting that, on July 1, we are going to be flushed with tourists in the country. It’s going to be a slow and steady ramp-up, [but] hopefully, it will continue to ramp up and the country doesn’t have to dial back on anything.”

On the other hand, Dwayne Davis Jr., owner of Bay Shore Water Tours and Charters, is confident that demand will rise again quickly.

His company had been fully booked for the entire month of March and April before the pandemic hit and they had to issue refunds to everyone, he said.

“Borders have been closed all around the world [and] tourists want to go to the beach,” Davis said. “So, definitely, there will be demand for our services once the borders open.”

He added, “I just hope we could provide the best service that we can and the most affordable service, and that everyone gets the bang for their buck.

“I’m looking forward to it and hoping that we can welcome the tourists back the Bahamian way; make sure they enjoy the waters, make sure they appreciate the climate and all that comes along with being in The Bahamas.”

Director of Global Sales and Marketing at Exuma Escapes Dario McKinney, meanwhile, said his tour operation was dwindling even before the government closed the borders and ordered that all non-essential businesses cease operations in March.

“We’ve been entirely shut down,” he said.

“We’ve just been monitoring our feedback from our clients who we’ve had many, many cancelations. We’ve noticed the numbers dwindling since early February, actually. We know what our statistic numbers are normally around spring break and heading into spring break, and we didn’t see that this year.

“The majority, actually, of our market share comes from China. We have partners in China send us direct bookings in large groups, and so they gave us some feedback on what may be happening [and] we started planning from then to start either shifting gears or shutting down. We didn’t know that the world was going to shut down.”

But all three tour operators spoke to being adaptable to circumstances, noting that they have just recently shifted their attention to the local crowd while waiting for tourism to pick up.

McKinney started ferry services to Eleuthera, with Andros and Bimini in the works; while Robertson said Blue Lagoon Island is offering discounted packages on day trips for locals and Davis has also come up with discounts for Rose Island trips, depending on the number of hours booked.

Robertson noted, “We’re all trying to figure it out [and] we are being as flexible and adaptable as we can in making things safe.”

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