Increased travel restrictions designed to protect the health of Bahamian nationals and residents were expected to go into effect Thursday (March 19). Minister of Tourism and Aviation, the Hon. Dionisio D’Aguilar made the announcement in the House of Assembly Wednesday (March 18) during his presentation to Parliament on the impact of COVID-19 on The Bahamas’ Tourism Industry. Minister D’Aguilar said in aligning itself with the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), The Bahamas has implemented tighter border control and quarantine measures for persons traveling from infected areas. The Tourism Minister said as part of those measures, all non-resident persons who have, within the past 20 days, traveled from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe, will be prohibited entry into The Bahamas. This policy, he said, will be enforced – at a minimum – for the next 30 days and will be modified as needed.
“These measures do no replace, but complement restrictions already in place for travel from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.” Minister D’Aguilar said Bahamian citizens and residents will always be allowed to return home subject to immediate quarantine requirements. “It is important that we, as Bahamians, understand both the short and long-term impacts COVID-19 will have on our tourism industry,” Minister D’Aguilar said. “Life as we know it, will be fundamentally uprooted for the next 30, 60, 90 days. To convince ourselves otherwise would be of profound detriment to the collective struggle we as Bahamians have begun to mount, and will continue to mount, against COVID-19 in the coming months.” Minister D’Aguilar said as countries continue to manage their own outbreaks by closing borders, imposing curfews and quarantines, and cancelling events, will demand for travel will become non-existent. Government-imposed restrictions on travel will impact that travel.
The Tourism and Aviation Minister said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that airlines have already lost $113Billion as a result of COVID-19. He said this number does not take into account the recent travel restrictions imposed by the United States of America and Canada on European travel, suggesting that losses will rise “to unfathomable figures.” Mr. D’Aguilar said a prolonged crisis in The Bahamas’ crucial international markets and the corresponding collapse of key airline partners: “augur extremely challenging times ahead.” Minister D’Aguilar said The Bahamas is “particularly sensitive” to the fate of the airline industry as some 85 per cent of all stopover business is generated from travelers within U.S. markets traveling on either American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, Silver and/or Southwest. “It therefore prompts great concern when airline stocks continue to plummet and American and Delta – two airlines that have captured the lion’s share of the market in The Bahamas – have already announced deep cuts amid precipitous declines in demand and government-imposed restrictions,” Minister D’Aguilar added.