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Tourism ‘dress rehearsal’ key to averting disaster

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By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune commercial editor

[email protected]

The Bahamas must pass their COVID-19 “dress rehearsal” or else they will “sacrifice” next year’s peak winter season and create a tourist “disaster”, a senior official has warned.

Kerry Fountain, executive director of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Boards (BOIPB), told Tribune Business that the tourism industry needs to use the rest of 2020 wisely to resolve any obstacles that have arisen in COVID-health and safety protocols. 19.

While acknowledging that requiring visitors to produce a negative COVID-19 PCR result within five days of their trip to the Bahamas was “a challenge” for the tourism industry, Mr Fountain added that the industry had “no choice but to live with it”. .

Baha Mar’s decision to delay its reopening beyond November will likely reduce airline seating volumes in Nassau during the first months of the second attempt to reopen tourism, which could impact connectivity and traffic. ability of visitors to reach family islands via the Bahamian capital. .

However, Mr Fountain said it also provided opportunities for commercial airlines and “non-traditional carriers” to fill the void by offering direct service to the family islands from traditional South Florida gateways and hubs, Charlotte and Atlanta.

“As for the five-day window, it’s a challenge, let me admit that,” said the head of the Out Island promotion committee of the COVID-19 PCR test deadline , “but that’s the best practice. Until we get a vaccine we can’t take shortcuts.”

As for the decision to recommend the reopening of all hotels and beach amenities on Oct. 15, followed by tour, excursion and attraction providers on Nov. 1, Mr Fountain said that – notwithstanding the Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas and New Years Eve – this would give the industry time to prepare and prep their product in time for the peak of the winter season.

“The business we get in October, November and December is not peak season for us,” he told Tribune Business. “High season for us hotels don’t really start making money until February, March and April.

“The dress rehearsal that we go through, whether we open on October 15 or November 1, and excluding Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years, the business we get for October, November and December is the dress rehearsal.

“We have to do it right. If we don’t do it right, we sacrifice February, March and April, and that would be a disaster. With the five-day test, it’s a challenge, but that number is not out of a hat. It’s data driven. It’s a challenge we have to live with. It’s not ideal, but these aren’t ideal times. “

As for Baha Mar’s effect on air travel, Mr Fountain added, “It’s just this. Airlines that fly to Nassau and provide seats to visitors who connect to Cat Island, Long Island and Eleuthera or elsewhere, the number of seats that would now be available upon entering Nassau until Baha Mar opens is less.

“It’s the impact. On the other hand, it represents an opportunity for partners like Delta, American Airlines and Silver Airways, which provide non-stop service from the gates of South Florida, Charlotte and Atlanta, as well. as opportunities for non-traditional carriers like Tropic Airways, to generate more demand.

“It means less people are traveling through Nassau and more people are going to the Out Islands directly from some of these gateways. To say just because Baha Mar is not opening on October 15th or November 1st, I am not going to open my hotel, I do not see that. “

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