D’Aguilar excited about tourism rebound; praises Health Travel Visa Unit for their role

Minister of Tourism and Aviation the Hon. Dionisio D'Aguilar

Tourism is rebounding every day in The Bahamas with almost 300,000 visitors receiving Bahamas Travel Health Visas to enter the Commonwealth of The Bahamas over the first five months of the year, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar said. Mr. D’Aguilar said statistics show that the Family Islands are “bouncing back” even faster than New Providence.

“Everyone sees it! The airports are getting busier! The marinas up and down The Bahamas have never been busier. The occupancy levels in the hotels are improving and, most importantly, the tens of thousands of Bahamians who were furloughed as a result of this pandemic are slowly being called back to work.”

Mr. D’Aguilar spoke of the benefits of all of this activity: “More tourists, means more jobs. More jobs, means more income! And more income means an improvement in your quality of life.” Contributing to the 2021/2022 National Budget Debate in the House of Assembly, Minister D’Aguilar said he had the “real numbers to back up his claim that tourists are coming back.”

The Tourism and Aviation Minister said from January, 2021 to May, 2021, almost 300,000 (294,000 to be exact) visitors have received Health Visas to enter the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. That number includes 22,000 visitors who received Health Visas in January, 30,000 in February; 64,000 visitors received health visas in March; 68,000 in April and 110,000 in May, 2021. “As you can see, visitor arrivals are increasing by leaps and bounds, from 22,000 to 30,000 to 64,000 to 68,000 to 110,000. And so far, in 2021, almost 300,000 visitors have returned to our shores. Three hundred thousand for the first five months and the rate of increase in their return is phenomenal! Get ready to get back to work! Tourism is bouncing back!”

The Tourism and Aviation Minister said 60% of the visitors are travelling to Nassau while the remaining 40% are visiting the Family Islands. “So that confirms to me that the Family Islands are bouncing back faster than Nassau, so far since in 2019, 75% of the visitors came to Nassau while 25% went to the Family Islands. And when you dig even deeper into the number, 27% of the persons going to the Family Islands went to Eleuthera (mostly Harbour Island), 20% went to Bimini and Cat Cay (mostly by boat from Florida), 19% went to Abaco, which is quite remarkable given the damage Hurricane Dorian put on that island and leads me to conclude that those second homeowners are very, very loyal to Abaco, and 17% went to Exuma.” Minister D’Aguilar said with the onset of COVID-19, persons wanted a low density, secluded vacation at a small boutique hotel or AirBnB, away from crowds and larger properties.

“And that is exactly what happened,” Mr. D’Aguilar stated. Minister D’Aguilar praised the work of Team Tourism members at the Bahamas Travel Health Visa Unit for their role in the “bounce back” of the tourism product. “When we reopened on November 1 (2020), we did so with streamlined entry protocols that stood the test of time. Perhaps the most valuable component proved to be our Bahamas Travel Health Visa requirement.

“They do a yeoman’s job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of year, and I am very proud of their exceptional work. They understand the need for customer service, they get that, in many instances, people are applying last minute, even at the Check-in counter, and they operate with the mantra that no visitor is left behind once they have the right documents, of course!” Minister D’Aguilar said officials at the Bahamas Travel Health Visa Unit are currently processing 6,000-8,000 Health Visa requests daily. He said the only way officials can process so many applications on a daily basis is to be constantly fine- tuning their technology.

“Every day, we suggest ways to make it work better much to the frustration of our programmer ‘Think Simple’, which I am proud to say is a Bahamian Company. “Even I have worked in the Travel Compliance Unit at the Ministry of Tourism, processing travel health visa applications so that I can better understand the problems and participate in the process to make it work better.

“Safe and normal; that is exactly what travelers are craving after a year filled with so much turmoil. And, with the launch of our new Bahamas Health Travel Visa, they are looking to The Bahamas as the place to find their reprieve,” Minister D’Aguilar added.