Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said the Minnis administration is hopeful that the re-opening of smaller hotels will help jumpstart the tourism industry.
This comes after several of the country’s top resorts, including Baha Mar, the Melia Nassau Beach property and Club Med in San Salvador announced they will not reopen on October 15, the date recommended by the Ministry of Tourism for the resort industry’s return.
Some resorts have even indicated that they may not resume operations until Christmas, with one property saying it won’t reopen until late 2021.
Acknowledging the challenges this poses for the government, the finance minister said the Minnis administration is hoping that smaller size hotels will resume operations to help attract more tourists to the country, thereby aiding in the economic recovery from COVID-19.
“Well, obviously this presents an additional challenge for us. As we’ve said from the beginning, our plan recognises that we will not have any significant tourism activity until the November time frame,” he told reporters on Friday on the sidelines of a United States Embassy equipment handover.
“We’re still hopeful that though the major hotels have announced that they may not be opening right away that the smaller hotels will be open, and we will start to see some activity both here in New Providence as well as in the Family Islands.”
He added: “We know for instance that the Family Islands bring high value tourists and so that will go some way for providing opportunities for residents in those communities to contribute to the overall economic wellbeing of the country.”
“Of course, the Ministry of Tourism continues to work with the ministry of tourism stakeholders to try and bring back tourists as quickly as possible, establishing the protocols as to how we will do that safely and we certainly hope for the best – that all their plans will work out and we will be able to get through this as quickly as possible.”
Since the hotels’ announcements, many have called for more financial assistance from the government with workers uncertain about their future with their respective companies.
In March, the government launched its unemployment benefit programme for self-employed people directly connected to the tourism sector and later expanded it to include self-employed people outside of the industry.