The government is looking at alternatives to quarantine, knowing that the restrictions placed on visitors will continue to impede travel to the country, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that he foresaw Baha Mar’s opening delay given the challenges associated with mega resorts operating under the country’s restrictions.
D’Aguilar, while not wanting to “give too much away”, said the government is assessing how it can mitigate the drawbacks to the policies handed down by health officials.
“We’re thinking through it,” said D’Aguilar.
“We’re certainly contemplating maybe another mechanism that achieves the same effects as quarantine, but doesn’t require everyone to lock up in their place for 14 days.”
According to D’Aguilar, the restrictions that are in place and will require visitors to the country to quarantine, or “vacation in place” as coined by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, likely complicate mega hotels’ already complex operating model.
“They need a certain amount of scale to make it economically viable,” he said.
“The larger the hotel, the more complex it is to get up and running.
“There is a health visa, which requires a PCR test (test for COVID-19) and you have quarantining… vacation in place… for 14 days and these are major impediments. We understand why we have them because the health officials are stating that in order to not lead to an expansion or explosion in additional cases, then we must maintain the protocols in place. But it is extremely difficult for tourism to thrive in that environment.”
And while finance officials said last week the country could look to the vacation home rental market for visitors and revenue should the mega resorts remain closed longer than expected, D’Aguilar said unless the rental is on the beach, visitors are not likely to book through sites like Airbnb with the current restrictions in place.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Airbnb will not be attractive.”
D’Aguilar admitted that getting an alternative system to quarantining in place will be difficult.
“You have to design a system that isn’t going to lead to everybody going wherever they want to go as soon as they land in the country,” said D’Aguilar.
“What makes it doubly complex is that we’re an archipelagic country.”