Last week, my friends came to visit me from the USA for a week of fun in The Bahamas.
They took their COVID tests before traveling here at $120 each ($360); they filled in their travel visas and paid the government $60 each ($180).
They were here for five days and left on the sixth day. As they left very early on a Monday, we had them take their antigen tests on Friday, so that it was completed and so they could use it to return to the USA.
Sadly though, both medical testing sites in Grand Bahama would not give my guests a copy of their antigen test.
They said they would have to pay $50 for rapid tests and results ($150).
I thought this was not right and called the COVID-19 tourism hotline, I was on hold for an hour and a bit, but finally got a nice young man who said that the medical centers should charge them $20 for a printout of the test, and confirmed it was the same test Americans need to go home.
I was fine with the $20, called both places again and told them what the hotline attendant said. Both said they had not been told that, and promised to call and check with tourism.
When I called back the next day they both said that they had nothing in writing and my guests would have to pay $50 each for the testing — even though they knew they had paid $60 for the tourism visa test.
Oh, and they would not print the test out for them either. (For those of you thinking they could use the email tourism sends you, nope you can’t – as it just says you are negative; it has to show testing results).
What made it even worse for me, was that when I took my friends to take the tests the lab we chose actually only gave them ONE test, even though they scanned in the travel visa forms’ QR codes, that means tourism will pay them for the test, and charged them $50 each for the emailed test results.
So, they blatantly double-dipped on testing procedures. The worst part was, they did not care, and said, “sorry, nothing we can do”.
Though our country relies on tourism as 85 percent of our nation’s income, these medical centers were fine with making guests visiting our country pay more money – total COVID-19 expenses were $690, on top of flights, which also meant that there was less money that these tourists might have spent on a tour, a dinner, or on souvenirs.
I have reached out to the Ministry of Tourism, ministers, and tagged a Facebook post to both offices of the prime minister and still no response or change to this situation here.
If we are to get our tourism numbers to come back, we cannot rip off those wishing to visit our shores.
This double-dipping makes it twice as expensive to get here — especially in Freeport it seems!
— Sarah Kirkby