Why D’Aguilar Wants US to Change Level 4 Travel Advisory

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar is hoping that the United States will see the country’s improvement in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and raise the travel advisory for the Bahamas.

Why it matters

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice, warning that travelers should avoid all travel to the Bahamas. The general advisory is Level 3, meaning that travelers should reconsider travel to the Bahamas.
  • The warning can affect the country’s economy as the Bahamas mostly depends on tourism for its revenue. The country is seeking to reopen to international travelers, to stimulate the economy in midst of the pandemic.

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar wants U.S to reassess the COVID-19 situation in the Bahamas

“This is no change from what was said from the US government from July.

“This situation has been in effect from July. It’s all about timing. When they release the travel order at the end of July, it was very unfortunate because up to the end June, we were doing so remarkably well in terms of our management of the covid pandemic.

“Once again this is a question of timing. At the end of October, we were not doing terribly well. Here we are a month later, we’re much better.

“So we’re hoping that Americans see fit to do reassessment as they see our numbers improve and see fit to change that rating,” he said.

D’Aguilar’s advice for Bahamians

“Please don’t congregate, please don’t party. Because if you contribute to a spike in numbers, this rating or this warning will persist and we are heading in the right direction. Our numbers are coming down and this will then lead to a change in that travel advisory.”

Featured image: Fox Business

Royal Caribbean is Looking for Cruise Testers. Here’s How You Can Sign Up

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is seeking volunteers to test its cruises as it restarts voyages following suspensions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters

The US Center for Disease Control lifted cruise suspensions on Oct 31st, but cruise lines must conduct test sailings in the advent of new health protocols in the industry. Then cruise lines can officially begin taking passengers onboard.

What they say

Royal Caribbean’s Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, said, “We’re going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the new protocols and make tweaks and modifications to ensure that everything is running smoothly and still deliver that Royal Caribbean amazing vacation experience.”

What are the requirements?

  • A volunteer will be you must be 18 or older.
  • They must have written proof that they have no pre-existing medical conditions that would place them at high-risk for COVID-19.
  • They must follow testing protocols, including rapid testing before embarkation and disembarkation.
  • Volunteers must submit to the cruise ship’s monitored observation period
  • Volunteer passengers will be informed of the “inherently risky activity” of their test sailing with untested health and safety protocols.

What’s being tested?

  • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in
  • Activities on aboard, including dining and entertainment venues; the ship must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated
  • Private island shore excursions (if a port is visited)
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms
  • Quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew

Volunteers can sign up at https://www.facebook.com/groups/rcibackatsea/

Featured Image: Royal Caribbean Cruise

5 Test Positive Aboard Caribbean Cruise, in Its First Sail Since Pandemic

Five passengers aboard SeaDream-1 have tested positive for COVID-19. It is the first Caribbean cruise in the market to set sail since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ship set sail from Barbados last week Saturday, but the seven-day voyage was cut short after the first case was discovered. The ship re-docked in Barbados late Wednesday night after the discovery.

Gene Sloan, a journalist aboard the ship, broke the story.

Why it matters

  • SeaDream 1 is the first line to make a comeback since March. It raises the question of whether or not cruises are safe as they attempt to return to the Caribbean. On its first cruise, there are cases.
  • The Caribbean is the biggest cruise destination, thus cruise lines have been targetting a relaunch in the region.

The details

What are passengers saying?

Ben and David Hewitt-McDonald, writers of a cruise blog who have been aboard the ship for nearly three weeks told The Daily Beast, “We are really upset because we really felt like the passengers, crew, and cruise line took COVID very seriously yet it still managed to get on board. SeaDream requires double the amount of the tests as the CDC will require going forward. So we ask ourselves is testing the way forward if it can still get onboard such a small ship?”

Featured Image: SeaDream website

Trump or Biden? What the US Election Means for the Bahamas

The world is watching the U.S presidential race. The Bahamas too, is keeping a close eye on the 2020 elections.

We care about who will win the election set for Tuesday because the next president impacts the Bahamas’ relationship with the world’s ‘superpower’ and it affects our economy.

President Donald Trump represents a different type of leader, who is unorthodox and is not considered a ‘politician.’

And we’ve been introduced to Joe Biden as President Barak Obama’s vice president, described as a moderate politician but fast becoming a leftist, based on some people’s opinion.

The USA’s economic influence on the Bahamas

The United States provides the Bahamas with 80% of its tourism market, greatly influencing the economy of this small island nation where the sector is our primary industry. The millions of tourists that visit the Bahamas from the United States each year, help with the circulation of the American dollar into our economy.  And, jobs in the Bahamas are created from our dependency on tourism.

But COVID-19 has shutdown our tourism market as countries like the US are lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. The fewer people travel from the U.S.A, the greater the negative impact on our economy.

Both presidential candidates have a different perspective on the economy and the handling of the virus in the United States.

President Trump’s loose approach invites the reopening of the country and the end to lockdowns against the advice of the CDC and health officials. He predicts that the economy will rebound and touts that a vaccine will soon be available.

Trump rallies thousands at Miami-Dade County airport | Miami Herald
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Miami. Photo credit: Miami Herald

On the other hand, Vice President Biden has cautioned against reopening the US. He says if elected as president, he will follow the advice of health officials advising against reopening. In fact, Biden said the US economy cannot recover until the virus is contained.

Joe Biden's low-key campaign style worries some Democrats – The Denver Post
President candidate Joe Biden speaks to a small crowd as he practices social distancing. Photo credit: USA Today

The decision made by the next President of the United States directly affects the Bahamas, one way or another.

On November 2nd, the Bahamas moved forward with reopening to tourists, hoping that more tourists will visit sooner and regrow the economy.

5 Key Takeaways From PM Minnis COVID-19 Address

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis appears to be loosening COVID-19 restrictions after three weeks of 24-hour weekly lockdown and changes to the daily curfews.

In a rare appearance at a health conference, he appeared with his health adviser Dr Merceline Dahyl-Regis, implementing new and less restrictive measures, before taking questions from the press.

1. Minnis started on the toll of the virus on everyone and the country.

He highlighted that the pandemic is causing physical, spiritual, emotional, and economical stress. These stresses have been caused by lockdowns and closure of businesses as nearly 25,000 people are without jobs and rely on National Insurance for financial assistance.

2. Tourism hit hard

The tourism industry is the country’s number one industry and remains non-existent as countries around the world, battle with the rising of cases in their country. The United States, which supplies nearly 80% of our tourism market, is struggling as more than 8 million people have had the virus, more than 225,000 have died and thousands are reported each day.

“The major slowdown in global travel continues to devastate our tourism-based economy.”

But the country is expected to welcome tourists without the requirement of a 14-day quarantine, beginning November 1st.

3. Virus will worsen during colder months

Minnis said experts indicated that the next few months will be a “dark winter.” He said the northern hemisphere is likely heading into the worst period of the pandemic with fall already here and winter coming, colder countries face a very challenging winter.

Due to the cold, more people will be inside their homes. Scientists say the virus spreads easier indoors where there is poor ventilation.

4. Expect on-and-off measures

Minnis knows the complaints of some Bahamians that the lockdowns seem to be done halfway and restrictions may not be consistent, but he warned in his speech that we must “get used to the cycles of tightening and loosening restrictions.”

He said the decisions will depend on the lowering and rising of cases in the country.

“Let me be very clear, all indications are that the pandemic will be with us well into next year.

“When cases go up on a particular island, we will have to increase restrictions if necessary.
But if cases are low on other islands, they will remain open, with less restrictions.”

He reminded the public that restrictions are not punishments but simply a public health tool to promote more physical distancing, which can save lives.

5. New Measures

  • Curfew changes take effect October 30th–8 p.m. to 5 a.m in New Providence, Abaco, and Grand Bahama.
  • On Grand Bahama, weddings will now be limited to 10, not including the officiant.
  • On Grand Bahama, funerals will now be limited to 10, at the graveside only, not including the officiant and mortuary workers.
  • On Abaco, food stores may now open on Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Following this assessment, a determination will be made on what specific measures may be needed for Eleuthera, Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.

Dioniso Says Tourism Takes Better Care of Bahamians. Why Tourism Won’t Ever Go Away

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar is anticipating all major hotels to reopen by October 15.

He said the government is targetting the full operations of beaches across the country.

D’Aguilar said the government wants to ensure a sustainable opening as the reopening and closing has impacted the industry.

“That was too traumatic for the tourism sector and significantly impacted our relationship with our travel partners,” he said.

The government is eyeing a complete reopening of the industry by early November, D’Aguilar said.

Will the Bahamas ever do away with tourism?

The answer is no.

D’Aguilar said tourism is the only industry that has proven to rebound after hurricanes, pandemics, and global recessions.

The industry has exacerbated the growth of the economy and is the number one provider of foreign exchange and primary source revenue for the treasury of the Bahamas.

D’Aguilar said there is no other economic sector that can deliver with immediacy and magnitude, the foreign exchange, employment levels, and tax revenues. Many developing countries, including the Bahamas, rely on tax receipts from its tourism industries
to facilitate food and construction imports.

He argued that the economic potential is unparalleled as tourism is the worlds’ second-fastest-growing sector and the world’s largest employer of skilled and unskilled workers.

In fact, human capital development for the Bahamas–housing, education, health, infrastructure, and tax revenue is derived from the millions of tourists who visit the Bahama shores each year.

What about diversification?

Ever since the Bahamas tourism suffered a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, critics have argued that the Bahamas must look to diversify its economy, with less dependency on the sector. The Bahamas has seen a 56 percent fall-off in visitor arrivals during the first six months of the year – from a record 3.9 million arrivals in 2019 to 1.7 million in 2020.

D’Aguilar said this shows a misunderstanding of trade, markets, and how economies function.

Instead, D’Aguilar touts diversification within the industry.

He said it means the country has to incorporate more local content from manufacturing, culture and heritage, arts and entertainment, accommodations, restaurants, authentically Bahamian products, and transportation to build a dynamic market, and to ensure that every dollar spent by the visitor on those goods and services stays in the country and in the hands of Bahamians.

What are the challenges facing the Bahamas’ market?

D’Aguilar admits that challenges face the  Bahamas.

He said the country’s marketplace is more vulnerable than many in our region, and indeed around the world. He added that it is neither as robust nor as competitive as it could be, stating that it lacks diversity and has been starved of significant increases in new, locally owned businesses and market innovation for many years.

He acknowledged that the country can improve its tourism model to increase trade and economic opportunity.