By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Tourism operators yesterday admitted that the sector's proposed October 15 re-opening and value chain have been dealt a “tremendous blow” by major hotels deciding not to re-open.
Marvin Gibson, owner/operator of Marvellous Tours, told Tribune Business of the moves by Baha Mar, Sandals Royal Bahamian and the Hilton: “This has been a tremendous blow, and just like other companies I am sure we have lost thousands and thousands of dollars in revenue.
"Our employees are furloughed now at this moment, and we were looking at ways of bringing them on as soon as possible. However, at the moment there is very little interest in bookings ,especially for The Bahamas needing a 14-day quarantine for visitations.”
Mr Gibson added: “I have some guests interested in coming. However, when I explain to them the amount of time the quarantine is they say they are not coming. So we’re experiencing a loss. We are preparing for next year and we are doing a lot of marketing, so it will keep The Bahamas in mind and hopefully it will keep us in mind with them.
"Right now we’re just doing some social media marketing and that’s about it. We’re keeping our business going. We are semi-open, and we are taking phone calls and those sorts of things. There is not much else we can do at this moment, except send out positive messages about The Bahamas and hope that they reach the right people.”
Nicholas Pinder, general manager of Born Free Fishing Charters, said he “doesn’t really know” what impact the hotels' moves will do for his business. He added: “It will impact the business but we will do what’s best in the eyes of the whole country.
"I think if the Government was able to do something to assist the small businesses in staying open then they are on the right path. However, I don’t know if they are able to do anything on behalf of the small businessman except talk about it and not do anything.”
Mr Pinder added: “For example, we opened up on July 1 to whatever the closing date was for the new emergency order. We did well in those 31 days. But, because of prematurely opening, the country now is recording 3,000-plus COVID-19 cases. Would that have happened anyway? Probably, but we will never know. Hindsight is 20/20 so you can look back and say anything you want, but we really don’t know 100 percent.
"There is a bit of unfairness between when they opened and when the orders come out in terms of tourism, and when they allow foreigners to come here and work. For example, the foreign yacht charters. Have you heard of the Ministry of Tourism discussing allowing foreign yachts charters to come and work here when there is Bahamian businessmen right here in that same business?
"We don’t even get looked at as a sensible organisation when the tours that we offer are part of the reason why people come here, and not just to go to the beach. You can go to the beach in Fort Lauderdale and do it for a quarter of the cost. People pay to come here for the experience and the people, and to get out of the hotel and not just sit around. Our sector is overlooked when it comes to tourism and it is pretty sad to tell you the truth.”
Vanessa Johnson, general manager of Beach Bar and Deck, which is attached to the Coral Harbour Beach House and Villas, said: “It is not going good, things are still slow. People book directly with us and we have nothing.”