By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Family Island hotels are exploring how they can "pool resources" to substantially lower the costs associated with testing staff, vendors and suppliers regularly for COVID-19.
Kerry Fountain, the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board’s (BOIPB) executive director, told Tribune Business that it was working out how its 30-plus member properties can exploit "economies of scale" by buying the rapid COVID-19 testing kits in bulk from the supplier.
Revealing that the Board has identified the BinaxNOW test produced by the healthcare firm, Abbott, as a potential candidate, Mr Fountain said The Bahamas' safe tourism re-opening from October 15 onwards depends on creating a "safe bubble" for the entire guest experience - not just the 'Vacation in Place' in the hotels.
This, he explained, meant it was critical to also test staff at dive, scuba and snorkel providers; fishing guides; excursion and transportation firms; and regular suppliers if the tourism re-opening benefits are to extend beyond the hotels and visitors enjoy the activities they "came to the destination for".
"The gold standard [PCR] test for COVID-19 is very expensive," Mr Fountain said. "But the minister said you are allowed to use the rapid test for hotel staff members. I want to, if I'm a hotel, to test staff members when they come back to create a safe bubble.
"Maybe not test every day, but you should do it randomly throughout the week. We've done our homework, and identified the Abbott rapid test, encouraging and informing our members that this is what we want to use to test staff members randomly, and any vendors such as the dive operator, fishing guide and tour operator. That will allow guests to participate in some of the activities they came to the destination for in the first place."
Mr Fountain continued: "How can we now pool our buying power to take advantage of any economies of scale? The whole idea is to get the unit cost as low as possible. How can we all buy from the same place to take advantage of economies of scale. These are the things we are talking about in terms of preparation.
"The trick is not just providing a safe bubble at your hotel, but a safe bubble throughout the entire stay."