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Atlantis 'Dampener' For Slow Taxi Revival

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

The taxi union's president says Atlantis' delayed re-opening has put a further "dampener" on what was expected to be a slow tourism rebound post-COVID-19.

Wesley Ferguson, the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union's (BTCU) president, told Tribune Business: "The tourism numbers are still slow. It's still slow, but we expected that. Taxi drivers for the most part are excited to be back, but I think we had opened up too soon.

"With Atlantis dropping out of the race, it put a dampener on the reopening, because people who would have booked with Atlantis would now have to cancel because they wouldn't be on the plane any more. We didn't look for them to come because Atlantis was closed.

He added: "We reopened but it's still a great deal of caution that taxi drivers have to take, because if you look at our neighbour across the way, our main source of tourism income in the United States, they are basically in an epidemic.

"Even if the government is being ambitious enough to open the country on July 1, we would still have to wait and see what is going on in America before we could open our doors to them. I don't think the government is watching that or taking that seriously, because one thing we don't want is another surge in COVID-19 cases."

Mr Ferguson said The Bahamas is inviting persons from a "very sick nation" inside its borders at a moment when it has almost eliminated COVID-19, with the Ministry of Health showing that only four persons remain in isolation at home with the virus.

"When you see Atlantis deciding to delay their reopening, it sends a message to the government that maybe we might be moving a little too soon and we could risk having a resurge," the taxi union chief said.

He added that the continuing closures of Atlantis and Baha Mar mean The Bahamas will not have much tourism business during July, at least, until the former property opens on July 30.

Mr Ferguson said The Bahamas still has Airbnbs, while the RIU, the Warwick and Breezes are now open. However, the continued shutdowns of Sandals and Melia, along with Atlantis and Baha Mar being closed, will "definitely have a negative effect on tourism arrivals" to The Bahamas.

"We are just basically pecking. The attractions are still closed, so people are coming here and some of them are disappointed because they have been here before and they are used to a Bahamas that was very, very nice, beautiful and robust with a lot going on at once, and a lot of activities and a lot of attractions and a lot of stuff to do," Mr Ferguson added.

"You have to understand that these people are coming from a lockdown, and then to come here and it's just almost like a lockdown because there is nobody else around. We have diminished the good Bahamian experience.

"It's been a slow take-off, but the only consolation for us is that we are relatively COVID-19 free, so that is a milestone for us. We are basically the leaders in this hemisphere with regard to the steps we have taken to beat the COVID-19. This may cause a lot of tourists to come here, but at the same time we have to be cautious to ensure we don't have a resurgence of this virus."

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