BHTA President Backs US New Vaccine Policy

Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) President Robert “Sandy” Sands has called US President Joe Biden’s new policy requiring that all foreign travelers entering the United States be vaccinated as of November 1, “a very positive thing for The Bahamas”.

The policy, which was announced on Monday, is part of that administration’s six-pronged strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Sands said he does not believe the new policy will have a significant impact on booking numbers for travel to The Bahamas given that the majority of tourists entering the country are already vaccinated.

He said it also provides the added benefit of ensuring The Bahamas remains a safer destination.

“I think it is a very positive thing for The Bahamas,” he told Guardian Business. 

“When we look at tourists coming to The Bahamas already through the health visa statistics, in excess of 80 percent are already fully vaccinated.

“But this opportunity opens gateways for travelers coming to The Bahamas, say from the EU, United Kingdom and Canada, who are not able to traverse through the United States, creating much more options for The Bahamas. That all bodes very well for us.”

As it stands, the United States only recognizes the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The only vaccine available to Bahamians for months following the start of distribution in March was the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is also widely used in other parts of the world outside of the United States.

However, last month The Bahamas secured more than 128,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“In addition, the reverse of that, it will create an incentive for Bahamians to get vaccinated because as of the first of November, only fully vaccinated persons will be allowed to enter the United States and have a negative COVID test within three days,” Sands said.

“Only American citizens who are unvaccinated can have a negative test within 24 hours can enter the United States.

“I think that is very positive. It is also a way of ensuring that the population mix will be made up of a high density of vaccinated individuals. All cruise ship passengers who are embarking and disembarking have to be vaccinated to come to The Bahamas. That is a very positive situation.”

The most recent data from the Ministry of Health showed that more than 184,000 doses of vaccines have been administered and close to 74,000 people living in The Bahamas have been fully vaccinated.

Paige McCartney, Nassau Guardian