Into his fourth year as minister of tourism and aviation, one would have hoped that Dionisio D’Aguilar would have more fully taken onboard some rudimentary lessons about statecraft and governance.
Among these lessons are to take a deep breath, marshal as many facts as possible, assemble the best advice and, above all, demonstrate restraint, calm and measured thinking, especially in times of potential crisis.
One would have hoped that he had learned to exercise better judgment and care in his public statements.
But last week, as he has many times before, D’Aguilar had an episode of verbal diarrhea and a terrible knee-jerk reaction, ailments for which there are remedies, including a little humility.
As reported in The Nassau Guardian: “Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said an executive order signed yesterday by US President Joe Biden, which requires everyone traveling to the United States to quarantine upon arrival, will likely be devastating for tourism in The Bahamas.”
In one fell swoop, he caused widespread panic in the country and embarrassed his Cabinet colleagues. It is often better to say nothing or to be very careful until one is better prepared to speak based on greater reflection.
Minister D’Aguilar should have taken the course of the president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, Robert “Sandy” Sands, who was measured and stated, according to The Nassau Guardian: “We are reviewing the executive order and ancillary documentation in detail and are engaged in discussions with relevant government representatives, regional partners and tourism stakeholders.
“We will work immediately and assiduously with all relevant entities to clarify the specifications contained in the executive order and the subsequent potential ramifications on tourism for The Bahamas, and the region. We will continue to communicate with you, our industry partners and members.”
On its website, Condé Nast Traveler reported: “The official details around the quarantine after international travel – including when it will go into effect – are under review by a number of federal agencies that deal with air travel and public health.”
There appears to be room for discussion with the Biden administration about the proposed new measures.
Instead of acting impetuously like Henny Penny in “Chicken Little”, who said after a nut fell on her head, “Good gracious me, the sky’s a-going to fall”, Minister D’Aguilar should have shown more competence, policy and political judgment.
This is especially so given the sensitivity of the matter at hand and his leadership of one of the more critical ministries of government.
Moreover, given the tremendous public relations and marketing expertise within the Ministry of Tourism and the many public and private sector officials at his disposal, domestically and internationally, the minister should have been more judicious and sound and less impulsive.
Minister D’Aguilar should have consulted widely with regional counterparts. Unfortunately, it appears that his legendary arrogance and seeming need to pander to some reporters, got the better of him. One does not need to be a media darling.
Over the next few weeks, tourism and foreign affairs officials should use their combined lobbying efforts to work with the international and American travel industry, business officials and others in the United States and around the world to lobby and to help revise and/or counter the proposals.
While the new measures may prove more burdensome, the best course is to see how The Bahamas can work with others to significantly cause them to be revised or mitigate them.
When someone acts as a one-man band, thinking they are smarter than everyone else, they usually buck-up and stub their whole foot, not just their big toe.
Arrogance often gets in the way of common sense and intelligent thinking. Wealth does not determine either of these traits, and pandering to elites in enclaves and certain foreign opinion can lead one down a wrong road that can be a dead end.