Sweeping changes for casinos when tourism sector fully opens

Casino operations, one of the first activities barred by local authorities and hotels amid the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the hotel sector’s biggest attractions and revenue earners, will undergo sweeping changes when the tourism sector fully opens, including a requirement for guests to wear face masks and a requirement for hotels to provide a face mask if a guest is without one, according to the Bahamas Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee’s plan, which calls for a certification agency to police the many new protocols being established.

According to the plan, casinos will also be required to take slot machines out of operation, in order to ensure that guests who are gaming are three to six feet away from one another.

The tourism sector plan was revealed yesterday during a press conference held by the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA). The plan outlines in detail, protocols that will be put in place and strictly adhered to in order for the tourism sector to safely open on July 1.

The plan’s foreword explains: “The plan lays out good practices, proposes new protocols and includes key policy considerations to provide a road map for the government and tourism stakeholders to use as a guide to ready themselves for the imminent reopening of our internal and external borders to local and international travel and to re-enter the tourism market in a strategic manner, which considers health and safety pivotal to the sustained restoration of the Bahamian tourism economy.

“The plan is comprised of reports from many subcommittees from the broad range of tourism sector groups and is close to completion. It will be given to the government for it to provide support to public and private sector entities, as the country looks toward reopening this critical economic sector.”

The certification agency, according to the plan, is expected to work with the MOTA, Ministry of Health and other agencies “to ensure applicable tourism-related entities, self-employed individuals, hotels, restaurants and other tourism touch points have in place and adhere to on an ongoing basis, the government-approved comprehensive health and safety guidelines, practices and protocols”.

The plan explains that this new certification process will be incorporated into existing licensing procedures for tourism sector businesses.

Much of the plan calls for increased sanitization and COVID-19 screening protocols, but also calls for potential business-limiting changes for tourism sector participants like those hotels that operate casinos.

In the plan, taxi operators are asked to reduce their maximum number of passengers by 50 percent. Their customers are required to wear face masks during their entire ride.

“Sedans should only have passengers in the rear seat with a maximum of two persons and SUVs with a maximum of four persons,” the plan states.

“Plexiglass is recommended for taxis to provide a partition between the driver and passenger where possible. Passengers should not ride in the front seat.”

Jitneys and tour operators are also being asked to reduce their capacity by 50 percent.

Transportation industry policy considerations being mulled are suspending licensing and inspection fees until October; reducing or deferring road traffic fees and airport fees; waiving the duty on sprayers and disinfectants or allowing access to purchase from government suppliers; and providing drivers with periodic COVID-19 testing given their high exposure risk.

Much of the plan for tourism industry stakeholders calls for signage pertaining to physical distancing and sanitation to be posted and calls for those in the industry to be vigilant in looking out for anyone showing signs of COVID-19 symptoms.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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