By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A hotel manager yesterday slammed the “discriminatory” provisions requiring Bahamians and residents to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before they can dine indoors at a local resort.
Philip Smith, the Compass Point Resort's general manager, told Tribune Business that the latest changes to the Government's emergency powers will likely force locals to eat outside while visitors can sit inside to dine.
He added: “Especially on a day like yesterday, people were wanting to sit inside because it's rainy and gloomy. Then Bahamians are seeing another group of folks coming into the restaurant to dine.”
The Prime Minister's Office, over the Christmas holiday, further adjusted restrictions on Bahamians and residents patronising local hotels if they are not a guest at that particular property.
Anxious to preserve the so-called "vacation bubbles" at these resorts, Dr Hubert Minnis and his team clarified that locals can visit a hotel's "outdoor" facilities without first producing a negative COVID-19 test result.
However, those wanting to use a hotel's "indoor" facilities - such as casinos and restaurants - will have to produce either a negative PCR or antigen test result if they are not an existing guest.
The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, in a subsequent statement, said the changes were designed to protect the tourism industry from a potential surge in COVID-19 cases just as it was starting to re-open.
Explaining that the changes were intended to "safeguard the use of hotels by all persons, and to mitigate any negative impact the coronavirus may have on this critical component of our tourism sector", the Ministry added: “As such, all persons wishing to stay in a hotel in either New Providence or Grand Bahama must be in possession of a RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test, with a negative result, prior to check in.
“Since all travellers entering The Bahamas from another country are required to be in possession of an RT-PCR test prior to arrival, they will, with the presentation of a valid Bahamas Health Travel Visa, automatically fulfill this requirement.
“In addition, since all travellers are required to complete a rapid antigen test on the fifth day of their return to The Bahamas that, too, will automatically extend their ability to visit hotels and their related facilities," the Ministry of Tourism continued.
“For persons wishing to use hotels and their related facilities who have not recently travelled, they must obtain a RT-PCR test or less expensive rapid antigen test to access the property.
"If access to a hotel’s outdoor facility, such as a restaurant or the beach or a golf course, can be achieved without entering the hotel, no test is required. In these particular instances, observing the usual health protocols (wear a mask, sanitise your hands and keep six feet away from anyone who is not in your party) are expected.”
Mr Smith, though, said Compass Point had few tourists over the Christmas holiday weekend and the restaurant's dining space could have been occupied by Bahamians. "People aren't travelling," he added. "We've gotten a lot of postponements and cancellations. So managing the crowds is not a huge problem for us.
"Okay, we've got a large a large outdoor dining space, which essentially makes it not as bad, but people prefer to sit outside than inside. It's covered outside for the most part. So it's not a huge issue, except where I could have used the inside, now I'm unable to.”
Mr Smith said it was more “aggravating” to keep up with the constant changes to the COVID-19 protocols, the latest of which was changed twice in three days over the Christmas holidays.
"It's just trying to keep up with the changes that are happening so quickly, and without any notification. You're left scrambling. I mean, it's happened several times before. This is more of the same. I think it's just difficult to follow either the logic, or to keep up with the changes, as they happen so quickly," he added.