DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation Chester Cooper.
File Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM, Investment and Aviation Minister Chester Cooper says there is high demand among travellers to visit The Bahamas.
He said this coupled with steady forward bookings sparked optimism among tourism officials of better performance in the months to come.
He shared the news Friday after a tour of Sterling Commons and the Hurricane Hole project.
“… There is a very significantly high demand for the Bahamas as a tourist destination. (The) director general has assured me that the trends that we are seeing is very positive for the future in speaking with some hotel properties and owners and managers.
“They are likewise optimistic about what they’re seeing over the next few weeks,” he told reporters yesterday.
“I’m advised that we have steady forward bookings, and we are optimistic about the next few months and the numbers in terms of stopovers in particular that will come.”
The pandemic has dealt a blow to the country’s tourism industry and the minister indicated the priority is to return the tourist numbers to pre-COVID levels.
However, Mr Cooper said proper COVID-19 protocol adherence is important.
“(I) think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and it’s necessary and important that we do all that we can as individuals, as employees, as business owners to ensure that we continue to follow the protocols to help to contain COVID.”
Meanwhile, the minister addressed Atlantis’ controversial plan to require all unvaccinated staff to pay for weekly COVID-19 tests.
Minister of Labour and Immigration Keith Bell revealed later the resort agreed to hold off on implementing the policy.
Mr Cooper noted a meeting with the resort’s senior executives and highlighted the difficulties the pandemic posed on business.
“I think it’s an issue between employer and employee,” he said. “There are some concerns about employees paying, etc. We have a meeting with the senior executives of Atlantis. I can tell you that there have been some adjustments in the policy. I don’t want to be the one to make those announcements, but suffice it to say we look forward to working hand-in-hand with our major partners in the tourism industry.
“We will be having active discussions with the key players, including Atlantis over the course of the next few weeks. The pandemic has been a very difficult time for business especially in the tourism space and called for adjustments in policy and I am delighted that we are engaged already, and we’ll work hand-in-hand to continue to advance tourism in our country. It’s important.”