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Tour Operator Hits Out At Covid Capacity Inequity

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

A Bahamian tour operator yesterday complained that a double standard is being imposed through the stipulation that buses and vehicles can only operate at 50 percent capacity.

Marvin Gibson, general manager of Marvelous Tours, told Tribune Business this health protocol was unfair and excessive when set against the fact that Bahamasair and other airlines can fly into The Bahamas with 100 percent capacity.

"I read in an article this morning that Bahamasair is opening up and not planning to run at half capacity, and that some other airlines are doing the same thing," he said. "I think it is really unfair that the Government would force tour companies and taxi drivers to run at half capacity when we have tourists that come on an a plane for hours with the airlines being at full capacity. So I think this is quite unjust.

"I don't think it's fair, because they can ride on an airplane for an hour or two at full capacity, and then get to an island in a vehicle with windows that can go down and ride at half capacity. If you have a family of seven that comes and your vehicle can't fit seven, you would have to put some of those family members in two separate vehicles when they just rode on an airplane with over 150 passengers.

"That is quite unfair, and that is an injustice to the small business owner. The regulations should be for all. How could our national flag carrier carry a full load and follow the regulations, and then the tour companies have to ride at half capacity? How is one following regulations and the other not?"

Still, tour and excursion operators yesterday said it was "prudent" for their re-opening to be delayed until July 13 so they can plan and implementation COVID-19 protocols.

Murray Sweeting, operations manager for Tru Bahamian Food Tour, told Tribune Business: "I think that this is a prudent decision because we are doing testing as well. It is not ideal, but there are so many things we have to balance, like guest safety and what does that look like.

"What is our guests' response to coming here when, in their home country, they may not be having to deal with these restrictions. It would be great to have two weeks to see how our guests respond to having to wear face masks, and how the hotels handle that."

Mr Sweeting added: "We've never really walked this road before, and we would prefer to be able to re-open and hit the ground running. But with so many unknowns, I think it is prudent because we have so many things to ask ourselves, like what will our visitors be willing to do when they may be wanting to escape these things. They may be here because they think there may be less restrictions, so what will their response be?

"We would have preferred to reopen some time ago, but we have to be prudent."

Charles Bain, general manager of Dilly Dally Bike Tours, said: "Personally, I'm ready, but from a business standpoint I am a little sceptical about letting those people from the United States in here."

Acknowledging the spike in COVID-19 cases in the US, Mr Bain said: "For that reason, even if they come in, we will only take bookings online. We are not even going to be sitting around the shop trying to rent bikes or anything. We will only take bookings online so we will know they are coming and be prepared for it."

Dainette Bonimy, Bonimy's Water Sports Bahamas' general manager, said: "There is nothing we can do about the opening date. The Prime Minister said we cannot rent the jet-skis so we have to stay put."

She said the operator was ready for the July 27 reopening, and has all the necessary approvals.

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