#Bahamas, March 29, 2021 – After enduring one of the most challenging years in history, which devastated The Bahamas’ vital tourism industry and resulted in an unprecedented financial deficit, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation remains unwavering in its commitment to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and help the country move forward to brighter, more prosperous days.
While this past year has shaken the tourism economy to its very core, a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan and streamlined travel protocols have enabled The Bahamas to rebuild traveler confidence that a seamless and safe vacation is within reach. Nimble marketing and digital initiatives allowed the destination to remain competitive, even within a new virtual landscape, and efforts have led to an average of over 2,000 travel applications a day, a number that is steadily increasing.
With vaccine distribution ramping up both in The Bahamas and abroad, major hotel reopenings and the return of cruising in The Bahamas on the horizon, there is steadfast optimism that the country will once again achieve record-breaking tourism levels.
Several key factors are contributing to the destination’s collective commitment to safety and a successful return of tourism:
Tourism Recovery and Readiness Plan: The country pivoted quickly to adapt to the new normal, engaging 30 sub-committees and over 150 contributors to thoroughly prepare to protect residents and welcome back visitors safely. Through compliance workshops, over 10,000 tourism professionals were trained in COVID-19 health protocols over the course of three days. To date, the vast majority of the Bahamian hospitality sector, upwards of 40,000 participants including hotel staff, cab drivers, tour operators and more —have been trained and are adhering to the new streamlined protocols. These protocols continue to be enforced through the Clean & Pristine Certification program, ensuring all entities are following the government mandated health and safety guidelines.
Streamlined Health Visa and Entry Protocols: The Bahamas developed a system that would assist in the return to travel in as safe a manner as possible. The Health Visa platform was brought to market quickly and continues to turn around speedy approvals – often in as little as six hours.
The proof of this effort is in the numbers as we continue to see increase in travel applications. For the past four months, the Ministry has received over 125,000 travel applications from both visitors and returning residents and since the New Year, is currently averaging over 2,000 applications each day — and growing.
Pre-arrival PCR testing, fifth day rapid test requirements and daily online health questionnaires allow visitors and residents to enjoy the country more freely without the need to quarantine, and with vital peace of mind that all proper precaution is being taken.
COVID-19 Case Management: With strategic testing, literal case-by-case island restrictions and Health Visa requirements, the country was able to reopen its borders to tourists. Typically, the number of positive cases is less than 5% of those tested as case numbers to date remain low. This is not only due to the implemented protocols, but also to the vigilance of Bahamians who embraced the new normal to minimize spread and keep one another safe – contributing to the imperative containment of the virus throughout the islands.
Going Virtual: Virtual consumer trade shows allowed The Bahamas to maintain high visibility and promote increased stakeholder engagement at key events like the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show and World Travel Market, while hosting a number of owned virtual experiences such as the Virtual Diving Pavilion and “From The Bahamas With Love” Virtual Romance Expo. These experiences allowed The Bahamas to not only grow databases and maintain competitive edge and awareness, but also created more personalized opportunities to connect with clients.
Industry Accolades: In recognition of these efforts, The Bahamas received the “Innovative Destination of the Year” award in the Caribbean Journal’s 7th annual Travel Awards for continued flexibility throughout the pandemic and for setting a regional standard for destination entry practices. The Bahamas has also received a “SafeTravels” stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council, which acknowledges the governments and companies that have implemented global standardized protocols for health and hygiene.
“These efforts have set the destination up for success as we move forward. The comprehensive COVID19 response has reassured future visitors that they can enjoy their time throughout our islands with the peace of mind that the health and safety of visitors and residents has been and will continue to remain the top priority,” said the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar, Minister of Tourism & Aviation.
The Bahamas is uniquely positioned as travelers look to book vacations given the country’s close proximity to the U.S., outdoor activities readily at their fingertips like fishing, boating, diving and a vast number of secluded beaches and Family Island offerings perfect for a socially distant escape.
As cases decline and more people become vaccinated, we are seeing COVID-19 slowly begin to loosen its grip on the world tourism industry. In order to bring back tourism, staying the course will remain important as current protocols continue to prove successful in minimizing the spread and instilling traveler confidence. While vaccines bring a dose of hope and protection, precautions need to remain in place as experts urge vaccines provide a high amount of protection against contracting the virus and/or developing life-threatening symptoms. There is simply not enough data to date around the ability to protect the transition of COVID-19 to others who might not yet be vaccinated.
While the past year has been one of the most challenging yet, the country has overcome similar challenges before – and will do so again. The Ministry is confident if case numbers remain low, and the population gets vaccinated, we will welcome more visitors and income and employment from tourism, and will bounce back to record 2019 levels.
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