THE Bahamas has made its pitch for how to reopen to tourism.
Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar has thrown his weight behind a plan to reopen in October, and is urging hotels to resume full operations on October 15.
With a bold attempt at marketing, he is trying to do away with the “Q” word. It won’t be a quarantine for the visiting tourists, but those arriving will be required to stay in their hotel for 14 days.
A compulsory all-hotel experience might sound a good deal prettier than a mandatory quarantine, but we’re not sure tourists will be fooled. As Shakespeare might say, a rose by any other name…
Still, less words, more action – what else is on the checklist for reopening?
Well, hotels will need an approved quarantine facility for one, a strong recommendation – not a requirement – for all hotel staff to be tested prior to resuming work and as needed afterwards. We should note this test can be the less accurate CDC approved test rather than the PCR test. The reason? Cost. The PCR test costs more than $200. Mr D’Aguilar expresses confidence in the cheaper tests, saying they are “in striking range” of the PCR test for accuracy. However, these cheaper results will not be included in the official COVID-19 statistics, which at the very least doesn’t inspire confidence. Visitors, however, will be required to have the PCR test, and one no older than five days.
Mr D’Aguilar exudes the air of a man eager to get on with the job. “We’ve got to pull the trigger,” he says, of the need to reopen the tourism industry. We must hope, of course, that in pulling the trigger, no one ends up dead.
We suspect another national consideration in the need to ramp up tourism again in October is that the temporary furlough scheme’s clock is running out. The government set up the furlough scheme in an effort to keep people employed – at the end of this month, companies have to decide whether to permanently terminate workers or bring them back. The end of September is also when budgeted assistance for individuals and businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic will run out.
So here we are, putting on our sharpest suit but with empty pockets.
We do not, however, stand alone.
We are not the only country wrestling with the dilemma of how to reopen. Far from it. Around the world, people are getting to grips with the question of how to welcome tourists again, but in the safest manner possible.
Over in Europe, a number of schemes are being explored. In the UK, there are plans to reduce the amount of time people spend in quarantine – sorry, there’s that Q word, Mr D’Aguilar – by ensuring holidaymakers are tested 48 hours before arriving in the UK, and then given a second test five days after landing. Those proposals are being driven in consultation with the tourism industry – and are gaining support from UK scientific advisors.
As we try to attract people from around the globe, so too must we think global in looking at solutions being considered elsewhere.
Let’s face it – most people travel so they can see a place. Few are going to be enticed by the prospect of coming to stay in one complex for 14 days and not being able to venture out of the door.
Mr D’Aguilar talks of excursions being able to start up too in mid-October, and while that plan needs more details, one presumes it would effectively see excursions operating exclusively to a particular resort to ensure no risk of cross-contamination.
We applaud the drive to get the country reopened – and while we have our doubts about a number of the aspects, the truth is that it is now September 8 and we have a little over a month to keep working on this to get it right.
Mr D’Aguilar knows the importance of that. “We really have to get this right this time,” he said.
He’s not wrong.