While concerned and aware of the global impact that the new coronavirus, recently named COVID-19, is having on travel, the Ministry of Tourism is taking it day-by-day and just continuing to try to promote The Bahamas as a tourist destination, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
With concerns getting closer to home as the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) warned of an outbreak in the United States, new cases of the illness with no known source beginning to be found in the U.S. and some countries beginning to warn citizens not to travel unless absolutely necessary, including The Bahamas, via a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which was released yesterday, D’Aguilar stressed the importance of keeping tourism going.
“Obviously we haven’t had an outbreak yet [but] I don’t know how long that will last,” D’Aguilar said on the sidelines of a signing ceremony for a heads of agreement for the sale of the Grand Lucayan resort at the Grand Bahama property yesterday.
He added, “You know, what we’re trying to do is to point out that the Caribbean is still an attractive place to visit, Bahamas is still an attractive place to visit.
“It’s close, it’s near – if you’re thinking of doing a vacation, we are near. People are finding that attractive.”
Highlighting the importance of tourism as the country’s primary economy, D’Aguilar said: “This is our number one industry, this employs two out of every three Bahamians, so it’s 50 percent of GDP so it’s enormous that we keep it going.”
D’Aguilar added, “There is no doubt that across the world people are reassessing their travel needs, and is that having any economic impact? Probably.
“Will it have some effect? Probably.
“I mean it’s inevitable. People, everybody, you, me, everybody in the world is thinking, ‘Do I really have to travel?’
“And you’re seeing it around the world: airports are slower, cargo is slower, so I’m sure it will have some effect. The effect of it, I don’t know yet.”
But he said his ministry will “just play it day-by-day”.
“That’s what everybody’s doing. What can you do?” he said.
Up to press time yesterday there were over 90,000 cases of the illness worldwide with over 3,000 deaths.
The Ministry of Health has unveiled its preparation plan for dealing with the disease, while Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday that government “will take no chances” in attempting to prevent it from reaching the country’s shores.
The Bahamian government has an ongoing travel ban against all non-Bahamas residents who have visited China from 20 days prior to January 30.
But D’Aguilar said that as Asia and Europe are not the largest tourist markets, the impact of the ban would not have been “critical”.
“Ninety percent of our foreign business comes from the United States and Canada, so what’s happening in the rest of the world – Asia and Europe – while we do get some foreign business from there and everyone is important, it’s not as critical as the United States and Canada,” he said.
“That is our two core markets.”