Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D'Aguilar.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
TOURISM officials are unsure when the sector will likely recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, with Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar noting some experts believe it could take as long as five years.
“Twelve, 18, 24 months, a number of people are saying it could take as long as five years to get back to pre-COVID levels but I remain optimistic,” he said yesterday. “I’m still going to stay with my 18 to 24 months (projection) and we’ll see where the cookie crumbles. Obviously it’s a guess at this stage. Things might change markedly when a vaccine is rolled out so we’ll have to see how events unfold in the upcoming months.”
Mr D’Aguilar referenced the significant decline in visitor arrivals the country has had during the first six months of the year, saying it has gone “from a record 3.9 million arrivals in 2019 to 1.7 million in 2020.”
“This 56 percent reduction in our tourism business could not be avoided, owing to the shutdown of both the cruise and airline industries in late March alongside a recent resurgence of COVID-19 in many of our key markets,” he added.
As tourism officials gear up for reopening the sector, Mr D’Aguilar said he is awaiting word on when mega-resorts Atlantis and Baha Mar will reopen.
“I have been in a number of discussions with the CEOs of Atlantis and Baha Mar to ascertain what their current thinking is about reopening and I am hoping they will make some announcements, very soon, with concrete opening dates. Naturally, given the enormous amount of resources required to relaunch properties of their respective sizes, they want to be assured of an economically sustainable customer base when they reopen. As such, they are assessing a myriad of issues, mostly relating to the state of the pandemic in their core market, the United States, before they commit to an opening announcement,” he said.
As for the cruise sector, Mr D’Aguilar said there is “no good news to report”.
“I have been in discussions with all of the major cruise lines and none of them have received any indication from the (US) Centres for Disease Control (CDC) when their no-sail orders will be lifted. Right now, all of the cruise companies have voluntarily agreed that they will not be sailing until October 31, 2020 but sadly, it seems very likely that cruising out of the United States will not recommence until possibly late November or early December,” he said.