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‘Critical data’: Health travel visa to remain

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation Chester Cooper.
Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investment and Aviation Chester Cooper. Photo: Donovan McIntosh/Tribune Staff

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

The deputy prime minister yesterday said the health travel visa will stay for international travellers as it is producing “data critical to the development and advancement of tourism”.

Chester Cooper, speaking before the weekly Cabinet meeting, confirmed that the newly-elected Davis administration will retain the health travel visa for international travel despite pledging to abolish it during the election campaign. It is being eliminated for inter-island travel, while the fees levied on unvaccinated Bahamians and residents returning home have also been ended.

Mr Cooper said: “We’ve made some changes to the travel visa process as you are aware. We’ve streamlined the process with inter-island travel. We are eliminating the fees on the international travel for Bahamians.

“At the moment, we are retaining the travel visa for international persons coming to The Bahamas. We are reviewing, and we are going to streamline the processes, as best as possible. The data being received on the international side is critical to the development and advancement of tourism. I anticipate that that will remain for some time.”

Mr Cooper is thus preserving what was left in place by his predecessor, Dionisio D’Aguilar. Although he did not specify the “data” he is referring to, it is likely the home addresses, contact details and other information provided by international travellers on where they are staying in The Bahamas, for how long and what they intend to do that allows the Ministry of Tourism to better target its marketing.

Meanwhile, Mr Cooper said the contract issued to Kanoo, the digital payments provider, to facilitate health travel visa payments is being “reviewed” but he declined to comment further. He added: “Our focus really is restoring tourism. Getting more tourists to come to our shores. We’ve been doing a lot of work internally; we’re optimistic about the next few months. So that’s our primary focus at the moment.”

But Faron Sawyer, president of Cherokee Air, told Tribune Business that the Government should “do away with the travel health visa altogether”.

Mr Sawyer added: “This is probably going to keep international travel slowed down a bit. I don’t know why they just don’t get rid of it as long as people have a negative test.”

Hailing the removal of the travel health visa for domestic travel, Mr Sawyer said that despite September being a slow month the move was a good thing.

“Usually around September it feels like somebody turns off a light-switch for some reason. September is always like nothing is happening, but I think I can say we are still a little more busy than we normally would be. I think the minister removing the health visa for Bahamians travelling was a good thing,” he added.

“If the Government needs the data then, yeah, I can understand that. But I still would like to see them get rid of that and just let people travel on a negative test. A lot of people are getting vaccinated now, so even with the vaccinated people they could get rid of the travel visa as a way to encourage more people to get vaccinated.”

“Other than that I think the new administration has made some good changes. I just hope they can keep up and don’t let it all go to their heads.”

Anthony Hamilton, Southern Air’s director of administration, said he does not see a problem with keeping the health travel visa for international travellers.

He added: “The rationale in terms of making a difference between the international traveller and the domestic traveller, given the consideration for financial revenue generation, I see no challenge with it.

“It helps in the domestic environment in that it’s not out of pocket for the domestic traveller, so that’s a relief and we still need to balance that in terms of revenue generation for the external patronage having to pay the fee. I have no challenge with that.”

Comments

stillwaters 2 years, 8 months ago

Discrimination against international travellers. During the pandemic, Bahamians cried discrimination if decisions made didn't apply to all.

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 8 months ago

I do not understsnd this. I do not understand who is advising the govt on technology. You have that data already. And in a system thats been tested for decades and is of no further inconvenience to the traveller. The airlines. Ask the airlines for the data. Source location, length of stay, sex age, family size. You may not be able to get contact details for privacy reasons but its an acceptable loss. They're here. You're more interested in the million other people in the world that they represent than in sending an email to John Brown in Texas. Who is advising the govt to put wasted money in ill-advised technology? Then you have the exit survey. What more do you need? Who is advising the govt on systems??

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Proguing 2 years, 8 months ago

Yep, once government get hooked on a tax, they just can't let it go...

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Alan1 2 years, 8 months ago

The Visa for international travellers is depressing business as people can go to nearly all other southern destinations without all the hassles we are imposing on them. If visitors have a double vaccination certificate why do they need to go through all the other cumbersome requirements? It takes away business we desperately need at this time. Whoever dreamed up the Visa was seriously misguided.There have been all kinds of complaints over the past year from well meaning travel agents and visitors about the Visa problems. Now the new government is going down the same route.

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moncurcool 2 years, 8 months ago

. The data being received on the international side is critical to the development and advancement of tourism. I anticipate that that will remain for some time.”

What the hell is Cooper talking about?

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 8 months ago

getting good data from a badly designed triplication of effort system

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bcitizen 2 years, 8 months ago

“data” he is referring to, it is likely the home addresses, contact details and other information provided by international travellers on where they are staying in The Bahamas, for how long and what they intend to do that allows the Ministry of Tourism to better target its marketing.

Every tourist is asked by a immigration officer where they are staying, what is the purpose of their trip, how long they will be in the count etc. Between that and the immigration card they fill out what other information could they be collecting that they are not getting already? This does not pass the smell test.

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Bigrocks 2 years, 8 months ago

Pure old dumd thinking formed from slack money , greed and graft

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mirkovonkovats@gmail.com 2 years, 7 months ago

First election promise not delivered. Next will be 10% VAT?

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