While there have been calls for an end to the mandatory 14-day quarantine for tourists visiting The Bahamas, the Ministry of Tourism’s Vacation in Place (VIP) initiative would be an asset for restoring tourism on Dorian-ravaged Abaco, according to one tourism executive.
Executive Director of the Bahama Out Island Promotion Board Kerry Fountain said while Abaco – which was just one year ago devastated by the deadly Hurricane Dorian – is not ready for tourism as a whole, there are hotels on the island prepared to welcome guests that could benefit from visitors vacationing in place.
“I think our hotels on Abaco, they have to somehow take advantage of what we’re now terming Vacation in Place. What they are going to also have to do is create a bubble, not just at their hotel,” he said.
“They’re going to have to create a bubble from the airport to their hotel and when they’re returning, the hotel has to help create a bubble from their hotel back to the airport by working with taxi drivers.”
Fountain said the Out Island Promotion Board hosted travel writers on a trip to Abaco earlier this year and while the consensus was clear that the island is not fully ready to welcome visitors at previous levels, there is opportunity.
“I hope I don’t offend anybody but I have to be very truthful. Let me start off with this story. We sent some travel writers in early February, some press reps. We showed them a good time and we showed them the best that we could. We took them over to Green Turtle Cay [and] then we focused more on the southern part of Abaco, but you still had to pass through the middle. And you know all of our hoteliers that participated in the trip, they did the best that they could showing what they could. The stories weren’t positive. Because you still have to fly into Marsh Harbour Airport and if you’re going to Green Turtle Cay, you still have to drive from Marsh Harbour Airport through Marsh Harbour, which is no more. And the stories weren’t positive and of course some of the hoteliers were disappointed with the story. But it was the truth,” he said.
“In terms of Abaco itself, Abaco is not ready for tourism. Downtown Marsh Harbour, outside the gates of the hotels, it’s not ready for tourism. That’s the negative part. The positive side though is what was announced last week. What do you do now when you go to Abaco or any one of the out islands or Family Islands? You vacation in place. So, what does that mean? It means now that somebody can now go to Green Turtle Club or Abaco Beach Hotel, or Sandpiper Inn or the Abaco Club on Winding Bay, or the Abaco Inn – hotels that are open. And they can have a great time, especially if that hotel is located on a beach because the only bad side of the trip would be getting from the airport to the hotel.”
Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar introduced the idea of VIP last week during a virtual press conference, during which he said the Ministry of Tourism chose to use the phrase as opposed to the word “quarantine” to describe what tourists will be required to do when they come into the country.
The Ministry of Tourism is eyeing October 15 for the full reopening of all hotels nationwide.