BHTA President on CDC’s Latest Advisory

Hoping that cases have plateaued for now in The Bahamas, President of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association Robert “Sandy” Sands said yesterday there is no doubt that the recent level 4 travel advisory by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is harmful for The Bahamas’ tourism product and economy.

Just last month, the CDC had lowered its travel advisory on The Bahamas to a level 2 but, after a spike in cases following the holiday season, the advisory was earlier this month bumped up to a level 3.

A level 4 advisory from the CDC warns Americans to avoid travel to The Bahamas but, if travel is necessary, they should ensure they are fully vaccinated before travel.

“Well, a level 4 designation on the CDC’s travel health notice threshold is not good for our destination. For the travel industry, this elevated assignment is most impactful for our vital group business, which is a major component of our touristic economic recovery. There’s no question that level 4 is a move in the wrong direction and we must do our endeavor best to get us to go back down the scale,” Sands told Guardian Business yesterday.

“I believe we have the power to change this designation, as we know that the designations are not random, they are based on the number of case counts and incidence rates per one hundred thousand. Therefore, I plead that we must work together as individuals, as community members, employees and employers to stay safe and healthy but, more importantly, observe the protocols. Practice the social distancing, when in public wear a mask, sanitize often, get vaccinated and boosted, our economic well-being as well as our personal health is in our hands, so let us move the needle in that direction.”

The new designation comes at a time when the hotel industry was looking to recoup much of its group bookings for the year and as 2019 booking levels were in sight.

Sands said he believes more than just group business will be impacted.

“The momentum in terms of group seekers and interest in booking the destination had increased and we were looking forward to getting back to 2019 levels, certainly in terms of interest and converting that into definitive business,” he said.

“Let us hope that we have plateaued and that this level 4 is a short-lived reality, so we can keep the momentum going in terms of our booking pace in general. I think to some degree, even our leisure business will be somewhat impacted by this but I think certainly in the long term, the greatest impact will be on group bookings.”

In the past two weeks alone, there have been roughly 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas and hospitalizations have jumped from double to triple digits.

The government has said it will not implement any lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, however, if the need persists, it will consider other mitigation measures which have not been specified.

“We’ve been in constant communication with the government, especially the Ministry of Tourism, on a number of areas that impact the industry and certainly no meeting goes by without some discussion on COVID protocols,” Sands said when asked about protocols.

 By: Paige McCartney- Nassau Guardian