By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The hotel union’s president has described this year as a write-off for the tourism industry while voicing optimism that 2021 could be “a banner year” for the sector based on pent-up COVID-19 demand.
Darrin Woods, the Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union’s (BHCAWU), told Tribune Business it was “hard to determine” how much tourism business this nation will attract during the first few weeks following the re-opening of the borders to commercial travel on July 1.
With resorts such as Baha Mar, Sandals Royal Bahamian and San Salvador’s Club Med property electing to remain closed, and the former preparing to lay-off between 15-20 percent of its staff, Mr Woods suggested those properties that have chosen to open from July will face “a challenging five to six weeks” as the tourism calendar moves into the slower summer months
“We will see what happens going into late October, November and December, but tourism for this year has pretty much gone away,” the union chief said. “Any residual business we get at this time will not put us in a positive light.
“You’re trying to ride through, get through the end of the year, and hit 2021 with all cylinders firing. If we can recoup some of those persons who have rebooked from travelling around March, April and May, if we get them it may double our numbers, double our capacity, but it will never make up for what we have lost.
“I’m hoping 2021 will be a banner year based on what we have gone through in 2020. I’m kind of optimistic next year will be a lot better. It’s just a matter of getting to the end of this year and see what next year has in store for us. Next year will be a blank sheet, so we have to write our own story.”
Mr Woods added that the hotel union was braced for “anything to happen” in terms of further hotel industry terminations, adding: “It’s a wait and see. The Government is doing their part, and we just have to see what the result of that is in terms of persons travelling.”
He admitted that the increasing COVID-19 infection rates in states representing The Bahamas’ major tourism source markets, especially Florida, continue to be a concern both for the tourism industry and the union’s members given that they will be interacting with visitors from July 1 onwards.
Mr Woods said the possibility of Europe imposing a travel ban on US visitors “may work in our favour” if it occurs, as it will force Americans to look to markets in closer proximity to their borders such as The Bahamas. This nation’s geography has been a key feature of the marketing efforts it has conducted in a bid to entice travellers to return to its shores.