Minister: ‘Prioritise’ tourism workers on COVID-19 vaccine

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar.

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A Cabinet minister yesterday backed “prioritising” tourism industry workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as “the only way” to rapidly reverse The Bahamas’ economic and fiscal crisis.

Dionisio D’Aguilar, minister of tourism and aviation, told Tribune Business that vaccinating front-line hotel and tourism industry staff “as quickly as possible” remains the only viable option for effecting a rebound from the devastation the pandemic has inflicted in Bahamian businesses and jobs.

With economic diversification likely to take years, he argued that fully vaccinating Bahamians who tourists come into contact with will provide the country with a valuable health and safety marketing tool that can be used to attract visitors as the threat posed by COVID-19 slowly starts to recede worldwide.

“In my capacity as minister of tourism, I am fully supportive of prioritising tourism workers to get vaccinated,” Mr D’Aguilar told this newspaper. “The ultimate decision for that lies with the committee created to manage the roll-out of the vaccine, and I’m sure I’m not the only voice at the table and other groups are equally as important.

“I’m of the view that workers in the hospitality industry have been impacted the most by this horrible virus, and they should be given the opportunity to get back to work in the quickest possible way because everybody recognises that until we get the tourism industry back up and running, the country’s revenues will not recover.”

Having a tourism workforce fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is potentially a key factor in jump starting a sector upon which much of the Bahamian economy is almost totally dependent. The strength and pace of the country’s post-pandemic emergence has always rested on tourism’s rebound since it is the prime employer, commerce centre and source of foreign exchange earnings.

A vaccinated tourism workforce could serve as a key element in efforts to market the destination to visitors post-COVID, as the absence of infection risk among staff and workers they will encounter could serve as a major boost to traveller confidence and encourage persons to return to The Bahamas.

This strategy, though, depends on The Bahamas rolling out its COVID-19 vaccinations faster, and more successfully, than Caribbean rivals and other competing tourism destinations.

Mr D’Aguilar yesterday reiterated that The Bahamas needed “to prioritise all those workers involved with tourism as best we can, so we can get the revenue of the country turned around”.

Pointing to the fiscal damage inflicted by COVID-19, which has primarily resulted from lockdowns and the associated travel and border restrictions - both in The Bahamas and in its major source markets - over the past year, Mr D’Aguilar said government revenues have slipped from $2.4bn in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $2.1bn in 2019-2020 followed by a further projected slippage to $1.7bn this year.

“We need to turn that around,” he added, “and the only way to do that is to get tourism operationalised. Not only should the vaccine be offered to hotel workers, but they should be willing to take it.

“The country is depending on them for a rebound. We should offer it to them, and they should jump at it. Most countries have done it by age, 65, 55, 45. I don’t know how we interrupt that process, but that’s my view. I think our strategy should be tied to getting the tourism sector back up and running in the quickest possible time and get revenues turned around.”

Mr D’Aguilar’s position echoes that of Robert Sands, the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) president, who previously told this newspaper that sector workers should be “among the top tier” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in a bid to help kickstart the country’s economic revival.

“We’ve certainly advocated that position,” Mr Sands replied, when this newspaper asked whether the tourism industry was pushing for its workforce to be among the first vaccinated against the potentially lethal virus.

“The hotel industry has made its position known in that particular instance, and we’ve been encouraged by the response we have received from the authorities. I think they also recognise that will be an advantage.”

Mr Sands emphasised that the hotel and tourism sector were not seeking to jump ahead of anybody in the COVID-19 vaccination queue, adding that it supported front-line healthcare and emergency services workers - as well as those most vulnerable to the virus - leading the way.

He added, though, that The Bahamas’ largest industry wanted its workforce to be “certainly amongst those in the top tier to receive it, and we are satisfied they [the government] have heard our request and are giving it very considerable attention. In our opinion, and the opinion of the government, it would make sense”.

The National COVID-19 Vaccine Consultative Committee, which is spearheading the vaccine roll-out, is headed by Dr Merceline Dahl-Regis, and features representatives from the church, private sector and civil society.

Those eligible to receive the vaccine in the first round include healthcare workers, persons 65 years of age and over, residents and staff of eldercare homes and staff of the uniformed branches, starting with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. More than 1,500 persons have received a single dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to-date.


tribanon 2 years ago

D'Aguilar is as stupid as they come and our more knowledgeable and expert health officials really need to start telling us the truth about these vaccines developed at warp speed using mRNA technology.



Bobsyeruncle 2 years ago

I think you're the one who is being stupid if you think 95% effective means no-one can become infected even after being vaccinated. Middle school math taught me that 95% means 5% can still become infected. Maybe your math class taught you something different ? (shrug)


tribanon 2 years ago


You clearly missed the main point behind the CNN news report. Even if the vaccine is 100% effective for you, it does not mean you are no longer able to carry the Communist China Virus and pass it on to someone else. And this may be the case even after you have developed sufficient anti-bodies for the protection of yourself. These mRNA vaccines may not be as useful as many think when it comes to stamping out the spread of the Virus.


SP 2 years ago

If vaccine passports or proof of vaccination will be required for travel, why would Bahamian tourism workers need to take the vaccine if all the guest are already vaccinated from the virus?


tribanon 2 years ago

See my "repost" above.


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