Danielle Anusiem, a Bahamian living in Atlanta, Georgia, was relieved to return to The Bahamas yesterday following the expanded reopening of the tourism sector.
Sunday marked the removal of a months-long requirement for everyone to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in The Bahamas.
Individuals — citizens, residents and visitors — traveling to The Bahamas are currently required to provide a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test no more than five days old and obtain a travel health visa, which includes mandatory health insurance for visitors.
“I’m relieved to have finally gotten home,” Anusiem told reporters outside Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA)
“It was a long road. As a matter of fact, I was really concerned about the process of getting cleared through tourism. I actually should’ve traveled yesterday morning but, unfortunately, my COVID results came through late on a Friday night, from the clinic that I took it at, and because of that, there was no one at the tourism office to intercept that.”
She said she arrived at the airport on Sunday hoping to catch her flight but ended up being rebooked for yesterday.
“Just by the skin of my teeth, I made it on this flight today or I would’ve had to wait until November 6, which would’ve been the next available flight on the airline I traveled on,” she said.
Anusiem said the process of applying for her travel health visa was “tedious”.
“There is so much that they are asking of you and I understand the necessity for it but, if your internet connection isn’t strong, you are going to be upset,” she said.
“…Imagine I’m doing that for myself and I’m bringing my two children, so that’s times three. So, the process to apply, you know, you really have to set some time aside and make it happen. But, we made it.”
Mauro Chan, who lives in Mexico and is visiting his girlfriend in New Providence, shared similar sentiments as Anusiem.
“The only thing I found to be a hassle or a hard time is filling out the health form online because it’s asking the same things over and over and over again,” he said.
“When you do it on your phone, it is not as good as when you do it on a computer and not everybody has access to a computer. Other than that, everything ran smoothly.”
Before the pandemic, LPIA was usually bustling with international and domestic travel in The Bahamas.
On Saturday, Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar noted that global tourism has decreased by 70 percent.
“Put another way, if we used to get 7.2 million tourists a year, as we did just last year in 2019, the best we can expect right now is 2.2 million tourists a year – a reduction of a staggering five million tourists assuming we all do our part to prevent, diminish, stop further community spread of this deadly virus by wearing our masks, social distancing and not congregating in groups, both large and small,” he said.
The reduction in visitors to The Bahamas was visible at LPIA yesterday.
The airport stood near-barren with minimal activity as the raging COVID-19 pandemic continues to stagnate global travel.
Adrian Forsythe, a Bahamian returning from Florida, said only 20 percent of the passengers on his flight were visitors.
He noted the LPIA had “less crowds”, adding that it was “good to see the airport a little busy” with yesterday’s travelers.
“It was interesting going to Florida and seeing how crowded it was,” Forsythe said.
“Florida’s open but we’re not. That was interesting to see.”
He said it took him 24 hours to get his travel health visa because “there was a technical issue with the website”.
“On the plane, they make sure you have the mask on and check your temperature,” Forsythe said.
“I think it was all the same protocol. They check the COVID test and your travel card twice before you get on the plane.”
Kevin Karnik, a local homeowner traveling from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said yesterday’s trip was not as complicated as his last trip to The Bahamas.
“It was pretty simple actually compared to last month when you had to put the Hubbcat app on and everything,” he said.
“So, it was pretty seamless today.”
Karnik noted that he is staying in The Bahamas for 10 days, adding that he had no concerns “whatsoever” as The Bahamas continues to grapple with COVID-19 cases.
“If you take the right precautions, I feel that everyone is safe,” he said.
“I think actually The Bahamas is doing a great job compared to the US and Florida with protocols that you have to follow.”