Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association President Robert Sands says the country’s newly lowered travel risk rating by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention “is a step in the right direction”.
“We are very encouraged by the elevation of The Bahamas from a category four to a category three,” Mr Sands told reporters on Friday.
Last week, the country’s CDC travel rating was lowered from a four — very high risk — to a level three, which is high risk. While the Ministry of Health and Wellness made the announcement on Thursday, as of press time yesterday the change had not been reflected on the CDC’s website.
Mr Sands continued: “We are very satisfied that in the not-too-distant future as a result of the low number of COVID cases in the destination we should be elevated to either a level two or level one. This elevation goes a long way in sustaining the tourism sector and ensuring that the current pent-up demand for the destination goes unabated.
“….The Bahamas has demonstrated to the world that we take COVID seriously. That we have exercised the protocols and now that we have demonstrated that we are getting to a better place we continue to commend the government on continuing to relax some of these protocols that act as inhibitors to potential travel to the destination of The Bahamas.”
He added that all resorts have been relaxing their restrictions, in response to the government also loosening measures.
Mr Sands went on to note that some visitors did not like current measures in place. He spoke a day before the Ministry of Health rolled back even more restrictions, loosening measures on social gatherings, large events and mask requirements for hotel guests.
The ministry said on Saturday a person is not required to wear a face mask while in a lobby, corridor, or casino of a hotel or while in an outdoor setting where there is at least three feet of space between persons who are not of the same household.
“I would say that a number of visitors to The Bahamas do not like the fact that these positions are in fact in place,” Mr Sands said on Friday. “I can also say that from a destination, the designation of category four put pressure on a lot of group organisers to recommend the destination going forward. So, it was a crutch to encourage more delayed booking decisions. The elevation takes away some of those elements,” he explained.
Earlier this month, the government announced it had ended the requirement for an antigen test five days after arriving in the country.
Mr Sands expressed optimism over the change.
“I think it is a matter of time. Part of the entry of testing to come into the destination is to protect certainly, the destination at this point in time and as you see source markets continuing to reduce their restrictions on entry into their country then I think you will find Caribbean hotels and The Bahamas will follow suit in due course. But at the moment it remains a line of protection and if COVID numbers continue to be at the very low level I am sure the authorities will give major consideration to a discussion as to whether this should (be) further revised or even eliminated.”
As the winter season is almost over and the warmer temperatures are approaching, Mr Sands gave a preview of how occupancy will perform in these periods.
“Understanding that hotels are seeing a robust period at this particular time and that is also against a backdrop. However, a number of hotels are still not online as yet as a result of a number of factors – Dorian, COVID, or hotels under renovation. And therefore, the capacity of rooms in The Bahamas is somewhat reduced at this point in time.
“That puts those hotels that are available in a very advantageous position to capitalise on this increased demand at this particular time. So, yes, we do see an increase number in occupancy in hotels that are currently open and also, we know that it’s a large amount taking advantage of the vacation market sector and also the cruise lines are also getting to a level of buoyancy.”
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter