Short-haul cruise trips best option after COVID-19 threat lessens

Given the country’s proximity to the United States, The Bahamas has the best chance at reviving cruise travel through short-haul trips after the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has been lessened, Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar told Guardian Business yesterday.

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its no-sail order for cruise lines to not less than 100 days barring special circumstances; and mandated the industry to formulate a “fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local and federal government support”.

D’Aguilar explained that when cruise travel is once again allowed and cruise travelers regain their trust in that mode of travel, they will likely choose short, three-day cruising itineraries that favor The Bahamas and limit the time they are exposed to other travelers.

However, D’Aguilar contended that until the medical industry develops a cure for COVID-19 or enough people have built up antibodies, the global tourism industry will face the crippling effect of traveler timidity, and the social interactions that once exemplified hospitality will likely have to be changed, indefinitely.

D’Aguilar said two things will stunt The Bahamas’ tourism recovery without the development of a cure: Bahamians’ reluctance to let people into the country who may carry the disease and travelers’ anxiety about contracting COVID-19 while on vacation.

“Until there is a cure, everyone will be dead cagey,” said D’Aguilar.

“So, you can’t go out there and say we’re open for business without a regime in place to be able to allay those two fears.

“Tourism is a contact sport. Whether it’s in the cruise business or in a mega-hotel environment, there are lots of people close together. And part of your experience is getting in contact with the locals and getting that fabulous service and great experiences.

“The building and the food can only do so much. Part of the experience is your interaction with the employees. So, that’s all changed.”

Like the cruise industry has been asked to do, D’Aguilar said hotels will have to develop their own guidelines to keep guests safe, should they reopen when the threat has lessened and before there is a cure.

The CDC has asked the  cruise lines for action plans to help prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 through the “monitoring of passengers and crew medical screenings; training crew on COVID-19 prevention; managing and responding to an outbreak onboard; and submitting a plan to the United States Coast Guard and CDC for review”.

Cruise lines had originally hoped to resume their sailings this month. After the United States began to record growing numbers of COVID-19 infections, they moved their agendas into May, June and July.

Now, the CDC could stop their sailing for no less than 100 days, unless the health crisis ends much sooner.

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