D’Aguilar on key factors that will determine impact of COVID-19

(BIS Photo/Kemuel Stubbs)

The extent of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on both The Bahamas’ tourism industry and its national economy will be determined by two key factors, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar said Wednesday. The first being the rate of domestic outbreak that he said: “we can control.” And the second being external demand shocks, which Minister D’Aguilar said: “unfortunately we cannot control.” “The rate of domestic outbreak, we can control (as) we are directly accountable for the spread of the virus in our communities and it is therefore incumbent upon each and every Bahamian to follow the exhaustive protocols issued by the Ministry of Health. Wash your hands often! Do not touch your face! Practice social distancing all day, every day. Do not gather in groups whether in bars, restaurants, movie theatres or churches, and self-quarantine. Do not come out of your home. Separate yourself from the rest of your family if you start to feel flu-like symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus.”

Minister D’Aguilar said the other determining factor on the impact the outbreak can have on The Bahamas is external demand shocks. “As countries continue to manage their own outbreaks by closing borders, imposing curfews and quarantines and cancelling events, demand for travel becomes non-existent.” Minister D’Aguilar said the pandemic requires the local response to be proportionate, measured and practical “such that we may recover in a reasonably short period of time.” He said the level of containment and duration of the outbreak in the country’s key tourism markets – most notably the United States of America – will ultimately determine the eventual impact on the tourism infrastructure. Mr. D’Aguilar told Parliament that economic modeling by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization reveals that the impact of COVID-19 on the global tourism industry is continually evolving.

“It is far too early to definitively determine the full economic impact,” he said, “I can promise you, however, that the results will be an incredibly challenging reality for this industry to come to terms with.” The Tourism and Aviation Minister said while The Bahamas, in the past, has weathered smaller shocks – the global financial crisis, Zika and Hurricane Dorian – critically important to the recovery effort from COVID-19 will be the country’s response to limiting the pandemic. “The Government of The Bahamas cannot face this crisis alone. In these extraordinary times, we, alongside each and every Bahamian, shoulder the same burden of responsibility as stakeholders in our nation’s health, security and continued wellbeing. Employers and employees must embody a shared sense of strength and resiliency in the face of the unknown. “Indeed, it will be of mutual sacrifice and we sincerely hope and pray that employers in the tourism sector will try as best as they can to provide whatever help that they can to their loyal, hardworking, particularly vulnerable staff as we weather this COVID-19 crisis.”

Minister D’Aguilar said there have been certain moments in the life of The Bahamas that stand as permanent testaments to the strength and resilience of the Bahamian people. “Burma Road in 1942 brought together our workers and labourers in a fundamental struggle for freedom. Majority Rule marked a transformational shift in governance – from the minority to the majority. The aftermaths of hurricanes Andrew, Frances, Irma and most recently Dorian, united both community and country in a shared spirit of struggle, stewardship and service. These moments are stamped in our collective conscience – with reminders of just what it means to be Bahamian. “As we turn now to face COVID-19 and the unprecedented challenges ahead, our response may very well be judged as the most defining moment in our history,” Minister D’Aguilar added.

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