The tourism companies last night welcomed the abolition of the mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors as a “game changer” that could help the industry escape a “bleak” 2020 winter season.
Peter Maury, president of the Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM), told Tribune Business that the sector was working to quickly alert ship masters and yacht brokers of the impending end of a COVID-19 health protocol that meant “no one will book a Bahamas wanted “vacation.
In long-standing changes, the Ministry of Tourism changed the 14-day quarantine, which forced visitors to either stay in a hotel, on a boat, or other accommodation to raise the antigen once they got to the Bahamas and arrive in the Bahamas during their stay.
In addition to eliminating the vacation in place quarantine from November 1, which coincides with the preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday and winter tourism season, the Bahamas has sought further incentives to travel by giving visitors more time Grant -19 PCR test for obtaining a negative COVID before traveling from the current five days to seven days.
While this test, which includes the result and the name and address of the laboratory concerned, is still required along with the Bahamas Health Travel Visa, visitors will undergo a rapid COVID-19 antigen test upon arrival at certain air and sea ports subjected in the Bahamas.
And tourists staying in the Bahamas for more than four nights and five days are required to take a second COVID-19 antigen test. This way, short stay visitors can avoid a second test. The cost of these tests, which can produce results in a maximum of 20 minutes, is included in the health visa.
“It’s definitely a game changer for us,” Mr Maury told the newspaper. “The holidays looked a little bleak because nobody wanted to book because of the 14-day quarantine. Many Caribbean countries have already announced their openings and protocols, so we have a chance. That gives us a chance.
“The 14 days kicked us out; nobody comes. Now they have taken the 14 days away and they will test on arrival. The second antigen test is not that beneficial, but we just have to take what we can get now.
“Were all [marinas] empty. If they’re not closed, they stand still, which sucks. I’ve been in contact with many yacht captains and brokers and they ask what the Bahamas is doing. Lots of people are waiting for us to open up. “
While the COVID-19 infection rate remains problematic in the Bahamas, and New Providence in particular, Maury said it would be possible to put this nation on a competitive footing with rivals like Barbados, Bermuda and the Dominican Republic to keep it full to take advantage of US proximity advantage.
He added that the arrival of fall and upcoming winter would see many boats and yachts currently moored on the US east coast sailing into warmer southern climates like the Bahamas over the next several months.
However, the government has only identified certain airports and seaports where COVID-19 antigen testing will be available. Nassau; Free port; Marsh Harbor; North Eleuthera; Georgetown (Exuma); Bimini (and Cat Cay); and San Andros are the approved airports.
For seaports and marinas, the selected venues are Nassau (Atlantis, Bay Street Marina, Lyford Cay, and Albany); Grand Bahama (West End – Old Bahama Bay and Freeport – Lucaya); Abaco (Marsh Harbor Government Dock); Eleuthera (Spanish marina); Berry Islands (Chubb Cay Club); Bimini (Big Game Club and Cat Cay Club); Exuma (Georgetown government dock).
No locations were given in the southern Bahamas. Mr Maury argued that this was “not a major inconvenience, but something we need to deal with,” adding that port operators in places like Harbor Island would be able to get health officials and boaters where they are going need to be done to make sure tests are done.
He acknowledged that the government, with its limited resources and finances, would not be able to conduct COVID-19 antigen testing upon arrival at every port of entry in the Bahamas.
Kerry Fountain, the executive director of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board (BOIPB), told Tribune Business that the revised health protocols and removal of the 14-day quarantine were “a compromise” aimed at striking the right balance between the return of tourism and tourism mitigation to find COVID-19 risks.
While the “96-hour” threshold for an in-flight COVID-19 test reduces the burden for short vacationers, Mr. Fountain acknowledged that “the number of tests is not ideal,” but said it was an acceptable alternative the quarantine, which he branded “a deal breaker”.
“It’s a compromise, but much better than quarantine,” he said. “Call it what you want, quarantine, vacation in place, it’s all the same. Someone who lives in a hotel is looking, as beautiful as this beach may be, to get out of the hotel and meet people . “
According to Fountain, 20 to 25 percent of Family Island visitors come to enjoy water-based activities such as bone fishing, fly fishing, diving, and snorkeling. If they replace quarantine with stepped-up testing, they can “do the things they came to the Bahamas to do” “after November 1st.
Finding that the removal of the quarantine now gives the Department of Tourism and the Private Sector a tool to market the Bahamas, he added, “Now you can walk around freely but you need to be tested. I think this will be well received. It is a compromise but better than the next option quarantined in the Bahamas. “
Darrin Woods, head of the Bahamas Hotels, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU), said the real test of the revised health protocols will lie in the market’s reaction and whether that is strong enough to get Bahamians back to work .
“The real test will be whether or not people start booking,” he said. “It has to be out there fast to be on time for Thanksgiving and the season that usually comes right now and we’ll see how that looks. The tests could still be a turning point, but if that opens up the industry, getting people to go back to work that will be a good thing. “