By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
WITH the country’s economy showing promising signs of recovery, Director of Labour John Pinder has estimated the unemployment rate is now around 20 to 23 percent.
Last year, Mr Pinder estimated the jobless rate was around 40 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“A number of businesses have been opened since then and so we are satisfied that the number is down in the mid 20s,” he said.
Yesterday Mr Pinder also said he believes most hotel properties that closed due to the pandemic will have re-opened by mid-summer.
However, he said, this also will be dependent on the country continuing to see an increase in tourist arrivals as was seen last month.
On Sunday, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar revealed that 60,000 non-residents bought travel health visas to visit the country in March, double the number that did so in December 2020.
It is believed the number of travel visas purchased roughly corresponds to the number of arrivals in the country.
The figure – though a far cry from the number of tourists who visited the Bahamas in March 2019 – represents the highest number of visitor arrivals since the country re-opened its borders in November.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Pinder welcomed the numbers as a “good sign” for the country’s economic rebound and said it further shows the confidence people have in travelling to the Bahamas as a safe destination.
“To me, this is a good sign in the confidence that the rest of the world have in the manner in which we were able to govern ourselves during this whole pandemic situation,” Mr Pinder said. “I think they’re satisfied that we continue to keep the Bahamas as a safe destination, and we did what was necessary to curve the amount of cases that we would’ve been faced with.
“I can certainly say that our death rate is outstanding. We didn’t have much persons who died from it and we were able to treat most of the persons that contracted COVID-19 so as a result of our good management of this whole pandemic, persons that were waiting to travel from their countries are faced with the same situation.
“I think most persons are satisfied that certainly, the Bahamas is a safe destination, and it continues to be a safe destination and so they’re starting to come back and that’s a good sign of our economy rebounding.”
However, in recent weeks, the Bahamas has seen a sustained increase in COVID-19 infections, with total cases now standing at 9,296 as of Tuesday.
Mr Pinder urged Bahamians, especially those in the tourism sector, to get vaccinated to help the country defeat the COVID-19 threat, which in turn will allow for a faster tourism recovery.
Workers employed in the tourism industry are now eligible to receive their first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee.
“We’re depending on this vaccine to do what is necessary to fight off the COVID-19 so I encourage every Bahamian to get it,” he said.
With vaccinations now underway, Mr Pinder said he is hopeful that those hotels that have not yet re-opened will now be able to do so, allowing for more people to return to work. Mega resorts Baha Mar and Atlantis began their phased re-opening in December.
“We know that The Pointe is trying as best as they can to open no later than June,” he told this newspaper. “There are one or two of the other hotel properties that are putting the necessary protocols in place to open by summer.”
“Once we don’t have no third outbreak and under normal circumstances I would say by July, most of these hotels that were closed would be open and I believe that the most of those persons who were furloughed, the majority of those staffers ought to be back in the workplace by mid-summer once the numbers continue to increase as the bookings have been showing so far.
“So, most of the hotel properties are seeing increase in bookings and once that starts to happen, I see no reason why persons should not be called back to work or those who have been closed will not be able to open. Based on the trend right now, I think it’s safe to say by July most of the properties should be re-opened.”
He continued: “…. And the cruise lines are now starting to come back and so with those announcements of the ships getting ready to head back to the Bahamas and the tourism arrivals increasing, I think it’s safe to say that by July or August we should be in good shape.”