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D'Aguilar: We're Still Working On Tourist Protocols

The Tribune By LEANDRA ROLLE May 27, 2020

OFFICIALS are still formulating protocols visitors will have to follow to gain entry into the country once the borders are reopened, Tourism Minister Dionisio D'Aguilar said yesterday.

He also said the Ministry of Tourism plans to launch "a very comprehensive" marketing campaign to attract visitors once commercial international travel resumes. In the meantime, the minister said officials will be using "inexpensive" methods and strategies to keep the tourist destination on the minds of its visitors.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the government is aiming to reopen country's borders to commercial air travel "on or before July 1".

However, he said numerous factors will influence when the country will be allowed to resume international travel and tourism operations.

Asked yesterday about the protocols for entry to the country, Mr D'Aguilar said the government is still "formulating" those protocols.

However, he said there will be a number of new guidelines that tourists will have to follow when permitted in the country to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

He said: "When you arrive in the destination, you'll notice LPIA will now have markers on the ground for social distancing and there'll be barriers between the passenger and the immigration officer.

"Every attempt will be made to enforce social distancing and the wearing of your mask. Temperature checking and screening passengers as best as we can in order to allow them to enter the destination.

"I mean, we have to come to grips with the fact that we can't eliminate the risks, it's impossible and COVID-19 is going to be with us for the rest of our lives so we have to learn to live with this and mitigate the risk as much as possible."

As it relates to social interaction between workers in the industry and its guests, the minister said the ministry will soon be releasing a report to guide workers in the tourism sector on the matter.

"A lot of thought has been gone into when you arrive into a hotel, how you go to a restaurant, how the room is cleaned, how the staff interacts, it's going to be a substantial amount of training that goes into effect to let employees of hotels (know) how you now deal with customers of this new norm," the Freetown MP said. "So, a lot of thought is being going in and the industry has produced a report that they will soon release into the public domain of all of the work and covering all of the different industries that will encompass the tourism industry."

After the country closed its borders in March, many local businesses suspended their operations, temporarily laying off workers.

On Monday, Luciano's restaurant announced it will be closing its East Bay Street location permanently, with the COVID-19 crisis "being the final nail in the coffin" after several years of declining fortunes.

Speaking on the matter yesterday, Mr D'Aguilar said the closure of Luciano's signals that the government needs to reopen the economy "as quickly and safely" as possible.

He said: "You see if you're a business and you have a certain amount of cash in your bank account at the time of the closure, you've been slowly burning through that cash paying some of your staff and keeping key personnel employed and paying electricity.

"The longer it goes on and the longer we keep our industry closed, the less resources will be at the end of this journey to restart your business so, not only is it that we have to re-open the industry, but we have to rebuild the customer base."

He continued: "So, it's not just okay July 1, everything is back to normal but it's going to take time for customers to get safe and feel comfortable enough to want to go out and go to a restaurant and that journey will be quite difficult for a number of businesses.

"It just impressed upon me even more that as quickly as possible, we have to open our economy to prevent such unfortunate events as what happened at Luciano's."

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