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Minister 'begs for patience' over tourism's re-opening

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

A Cabinet minister yesterday "begged for patience" from tourism industry stakeholders and workers as he warned that the sector's COVID-19 recovery will be extremely slow.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, speaking outside the Cabinet Office, said: "I’m going to have to beg for patience because the cruise industry is going to start very slow. They are probably going to start to go to their private islands and, once they get comfortable with that, they are going to want to come to Nassau and go on pre-arranged tours, then come into the general public.

"So, this is going to be a crawl, before you walk, before you run. It’s not going to be right back to pre-COVID. There is going to have to be a staggered approach to getting this tourism industry back up and running, and then there are going to be people who are frustrated.

"Asking why aren’t tourists coming back downtown immediately? Why are they not engaging in these activities they used to do on the beach? I need to eat and I need to feed my family. We get that, and we are mindful of that, but understand that the players who are coming back into the market are doing so very cautiously and they just want to make sure that the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted and they have everything running in their core business. Slowly they will be able to expand the services that they offer to their guests.”

Mr D'Aguilar said health officials had indicated "almost zero transmission" of COVID-19 has been traced back to tourists entering The Bahamas. He added that the Government was sufficiently confident that the more frequent and rapid-result testing it plans to introduce from November 1, with visitors tested on arrival and on the fifth day of their stay, will mitigate the associated health risks./

"We are trying to do a balancing act," the minister said. "We’re trying to get our economy going, but we are trying to do it in the safest possible way, and we feel that with this testing regime this is a safe mechanism by which we can begin the reintroduction of tourism back into our economy. They indicated loud and clear if you have a 14-day quarantine, we’re not coming

"Remember, tourism employs 50 percent of our workforce. It is two-thirds of our economy. There are people out there who think we should shift to another industry. There is not an industry we can think of, or they can think of, that can in any way replace tourism in the short-term or medium-term.

"So we had to look at other jurisdictions, see what other strategies they were using and see where we can adopt something we feel is safe and allow both of them to exist - the economy getting going, but there is sufficient testing in place to ensure there is no importation of COVID-19.”

Mr D’Aguilar said there had been recommendations that the Government impose "a harder lockdown and a longer lockdown" than the one presently in place for New Providence and Abaco, but suggested this had to be balanced with the need to preserve economic activity - not least because this will generate the tax revenues that enable The Bahamas to service its debt obligations.

The minister added that the Government was seeking to implement some form of insurance plan to cover the costs associated with treating and repatriating visitors who test positive for COVID-19 while staying in The Bahamas.

“The Prime Minister would have mentioned in one of his speeches that we are looking at universal health for all visitors that are coming into the country," Mr D'Aguilar said. "A health plan in the event that they test positive, what are the protocols we are going to do If they are asymptomatic, what are the options that are available to them? They can be retested and they can go into quarantine for 14 days. Or, if they are symptomatic they can leave the jurisdiction.”

“So anybody who tests positive, we’re going to encourage them to return home. So, if you are going to go through the symptoms of COVID, we would think that you would want to be back in an environment with which you are familiar.

"Your health care providers are there and, as you know, our healthcare system is extremely challenged right now so maybe this is not the best place to be if you are visiting here and you develop symptoms. So, we’re going to encourage persons to return home and work through their symptoms in the comfort of their home.”

Comments

tribanon 2 years, 1 month ago

Just more yappity, yap, yap from a reactionary D'Aguilar whom, like Minnis, is incapable of seeing the big picture, is truly visionless and directionless, is never proactive, and is therefore always without a well thought through plan.

D'Aguilar should be doing whatever it takes to completely shutdown Bahamasair forevermore, not too mention stopping or at least significantly slowing down all of the other unnecessary cash flow hemorrhaging going on within his ministerial portfolio right under his nose.

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