The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation, along with the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee, yesterday disclosed that the Government will use a strategic, phased approach to reopening the country’s borders and tourism sector, which will culminate on July 1.
The reopening of the tourism-dependent economy to international commercial flights follows a Government decision to close seaports and airports on March 24 due to the global spread of the coronavirus.
During the closure, the Government appointed individuals to the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee to develop a collaborative plan for reopening and provide health and safety guidelines.
“Our top priority has and will always be our commitment to the health and well-being of our residents and visitors,” Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Director General Joy Jibrilu stated during a press conference, where the groups outlined details of the ‘Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan’.
The plan consists of policies, safety measures and precautions that will ensure the continued health and well-being of citizens and visitors.
In fact, The Bahamas’ Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar pointed out that, “It is critical that health and safety protocols are being adhered to and that the health sector remains well equipped.”
While confirming the reopening of The Bahamas’ borders to international commercial travel on July 1, he opined that travel and tourism will be markedly different from what it was prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
As such, he said preparing The Bahamas for tourism in the post-COVID world “is quite complicated, with many nuances and considerations to plan for”.
D’Aguilar revealed, further, that the first phase of the reopening will begin on June 15.
“Phase 1 is expected to see the opening of the tourism sector with the return of boaters, yachters and private aviation being allowed to enter the destination. We are starting with these smaller special interest groups as they provide a more controlled segment; they all will pre‐register electronically, allowing health officials to determine their risk level, ” the tourism minister said.
He also stated that during Phase 1, the Government will allow commercial airlines to bring in Bahamian citizens, legal residents, homeowners qualifying for economic permanent residency, or the immediate family members or significant others of any of these groups.
In addition, hotels will reopen for staff to return to work and put in place all the measures required to ensure they are ready to welcome guests at the onset of Phase 2.
D’Aguilar noted that the purpose of the Phase 1 reopening of the tourism sector is to test the market and serve as a transition to Phase 2 opening on 1 July. It will also indicate the efficacy of the new protocols outlined in the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan.
“It is important that once the destination opens, we are able to demonstrate immediately that we are indeed in a state of readiness,” he said.
Beginning July 1, The Bahamas will resume international travel and open its tourism sector to foreign visitors.
“We must remember that we are living in a new normal in the wake of COVID-19 and a lot is going to change across the tourism sector. We are putting an even greater emphasis on making sure The Bahamas is safe and clean for everyone…” Jibrilu said.