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'You Can't Turn Tourism On And Off Like The Tap'

• 'Mixed message' fear for November 1 re-open

• COVID lockdown/curfew will 'sow visitor doubt'

• Hotelier urges: 'Develop strategy and stick to it'

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A major hotelier yesterday voiced concern over the "mixed message" sent by the latest COVID-19 restrictions for November 1's re-opening, arguing: "You can't turn tourism on and off like a tap."

Magnus Alnebeck, the Grand Bahama-based Pelican Bay resort's general manager, told Tribune Business the weekend lockdown and extended curfew imposed on New Providence and Abaco by the Prime Minister were likely "to sow a little bit of doubt and confusion" in the minds of potential visitors mulling whether to travel to this nation once the 14-day quarantine is eliminated.

Arguing that the situation again highlights the need for The Bahamas to develop a clear strategy for its tourism re-opening "and stick to it", Mr Alnebeck said the tighter restrictions unveiled by Dr Minnis were likely to cause some discomfort in the global travel marketplace.

"Turn it around. Imagine you as a Bahamian are considering going to Fort Lauderdale on November 1, and tomorrow you see Florida has a 24-hour curfew this coming weekend two weeks before you are going to go there," the Pelican Bay chief explained. "Would you go ahead with your plans? You would say: Let's wait and see."

Suggesting that the measures unveiled yesterday "definitely do no good" for The Bahamas' ambitions to fully re-open its borders to international travellers on November 1 with the elimination of the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Mr Alnebeck said the strength of any rebound will depend heavily on how the tourism market react.

"The question of whether this hampers it or not, it's too early to tell," he added. "But as a consumer it must sow a little bit of confusion and doubt. To think we can turn this on and off like a tap, it doesn't work like that.

"People are very reluctant to travel, and the mixed messages about the situation doesn't make them any more comfortable. Let's try and come up with a plan we can stick with, and let's stick to it. Changing things too rapidly has been a problem for us over the last eight months. Open/close, change this, change that. I think we need to find out whatever our plan is and stick with it."

Giving specific example of where The Bahamas' messaging has been less than consistent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Alnebeck added: "We've had a problem in Grand Bahama where for weeks we are open and people who come to the island and want to go to the beach cannot do so after 12pm because they are told the beach is closed.

"Some of the things we are doing, like keeping the beaches closed, makes no sense. We all know what happened in July when we opened up for tourists but closed the beaches. The concern is how difficult it will be to send out the message that in three weeks we will be opening up now that Nassau is under weekend lockdown and curfew. Have we shown in the past that we stick to what we actually say?"

The Pelican Bay chief added that his resort had suffered cancellations as a result of the Government and Ministry of Tourism promoting the Bahamian hotel industry's re-opening on October 15, as this created the impression the Grand Bahama resort, tool, was closed even though it had remained open throughout the pandemic.

Pointing out that persons planning to come to The Bahamas in early November 2020 will be making their plans and bookings now, just as the Prime Minister announced new restrictions for New Providence and Abaco, Mr Alnebeck also questioned how comfortable travellers to the Family Islands will be transiting through Nassau.

Dr Minnis has given himself just three weeks to bring New Providence's COVID-19 surge under control as he yesterday reaffirmed that the November 1 deadline for re-opening The Bahamas' borders to international tourism, and the elimination of the 14-day mandatory quarantine, remains intact despite the new measures.

With timing rapidly running out, and new infections on New Providence running at between 50 to 100 per day or 500 per week, some observers believe with hindsight that the Prime Minister may have been correct to try an August lockdown.

However, its botched handling, which have residents too little time to prepare, resulted in the Government rapidly reversing course and re-opening the economy. After suggesting that no more lockdowns would be employed, and that COVID-19's so-called second surge was coming to an end, Dr Minnis has now performed yet another u-turn with the imposition of more restrictive measures.

As reported by Tribune Business on Tuesday, the Prime Minister yesterday opted for weekend lockdowns and an extended, earlier curfew on weekdays that begins at 7pm rather than the current 10pm on New Providence and Abaco with effect from this Friday.

While sea and airports will be allowed to operate normally, and travel continue uninterrupted with no disruption to flights, Dr Minnis said: "No food stores, pharmacies, gas stations, construction sites or laundromats will be permitted to operate during the full 24- hour weekend curfews.... Gas stations are not permitted to provide in-store services.

Calling on all Bahamians who can work remotely from home to do so, he added: "We have many reports of individuals in offices not wearing masks and not maintaining physical distancing, proper sanitisation and other health measures. Such practices are helping to spread the virus.

"I again make a strong appeal to those businesses that are not complying with health and safety guidelines to do so immediately..... As a part of our enforcement efforts, all fines for breaching health protocols, except for the mask violations, will be doubled.

"To encourage compliance with public health protection measures, there will be an amendment to the Emergency Powers Order that causes businesses to be closed for business on their second violation of the Orders. They will be closed for 14 days.

"If a business or construction site has an infection rate of ten percent of the full staff complement, the business or construction site will be closed, and all staff members will be quarantined for the prescribed incubation period of 14 days."

Comments

ISpeakFacts 6 months, 1 week ago

Common sense doesn't apply to Minnis and his lousy administration!

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tribanon 6 months, 1 week ago

Apparently even D'Aguilar was recently overheard (recorded?) saying to a very close 'white' friend of his something along the lines that Minnis has now become a totally directionless and deranged madman. If that's indeed true, it certainly would be most interesting to say the least. Stay tuned!

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rodentos 6 months, 1 week ago

you can't turn tourism on and off but you can turn the government on and off...

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Jetflt 6 months, 1 week ago

Our PM has lost his way. It is time for him to go - and go fast! Let me get this right. This rudderless government wants visitors to produce a negative COVID test on arrival, which I can accept, but then you have to be tested again on arrival, and tested a 3rd time some days later??? So why would a visitor go through all of that to visit the Bahamas??? For what??? The beautiful waters and the warm, friendly people??? Ain’t happenin.’ How stupid is that??? You’d have to be an idiot to go through all that.

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happyfly 6 months, 1 week ago

especially when your chances are now higher to catch it from a Bahamian once you have arrived. It is absolute insanity. We must have one of the highest internal infection rates per capita in the world right now and they want to torture the tourists ?

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ColumbusPillow 6 months, 1 week ago

1.Covid test 7 days before travel. 2.Covid RAPID test on arrival 3.Covid TEST 5 days after arrival only at Official Ports of Entry...…. NOT possible at majority of family islands UNTIL SELF ADMINITERED RAPID TESTING (15 minutes) IS AUTHORIZED, otherwise family islands are dead as tourist destinations! GET RAPID COVID ANTIGEN TESTING AUTHORIZED as it is in the rest of the world!

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xtreme2x 6 months, 1 week ago

My 2 Cents

Lockdown/ Curfew was ok for the first three (3) months. Now that we realized that this covid-19 is here to stay. Even if there is a vaccine, it will be back every winter just like the flu. With the increase in covid-19 patients and doctors and Nurses are over work and having covid-19 and hospital have no more room.

Shift your plans and convert one of these government building to a COVID-19 CENTER to handle 50 to 100 covid-19 patients. The doctors need to swoller their pride and we bring outside doctors and nurses to work at the COVID CENTER. Leave PMH to handle regular sick patients. staff with Bahamian Nurses and Doctors.

Then the economy should be open completely. Still following all the guide lines that are to follow: wear mask, sanitize, social destining ect.

We have to learn to live with this monster.

Police need to crack down on the people who they know is assisting in spreading covid-19. Why do all Bahamians have to suffer.

WHAT WILL GOVERNMENT DO IF AFTER THIS LOCKDOWN, NOTHING CHANGE??? MY 2 CENTS TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT

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Jetflt 6 months, 1 week ago

Columbus got it right. Rapid Antigen test with results in 15 mins. 88% accurate rate versus the PCR with a 95% accuracy rate. 88% is good enough! Get on with it!!! Look at Hawaii.....they are accepting the rapid antigen test. So do I want to go to Hawaii or the Bahamas and have to put up with all this nonsense??? The answer is easy!!!

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