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Navigating restrictions ‘a bit of a conundrum’ as tourism sector reopens, says D’Aguilar

The Nassau Guardian June 15, 2020

Paige McCartney

With today marking the first day of a phased reopening of the tourism sector, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar said yesterday that there is a “bit of a conundrum” in navigating the curfews and restrictions to beaches that are a part of emergency lockdown measures implemented back in March to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning today, June 15, boaters, yachters and private aircraft are allowed to once again visit The Bahamas.

D’Aguilar said while visitors are required to adhere to the emergency orders, which expire on June 29, for now the Ministry of Tourism is trying to balance how to maintain the attractiveness of The Bahamas as a destination while also following protocols.

“Guests will have to be on property by 9 p.m. at night and will be subject to the same rules as Bahamians. There will not be one rule for one and one rule for the other. We’re seeking to try and harmonize the desire of foreign visitors to our country with the protocols that the Ministry of Health feels that are still necessary to remain in place,” he told Guardian Business yesterday.

“There will be a little bit of push and pull as the Ministry of Tourism seeks to liberalize the rules in order to accommodate persons wishing to vacation in the country, but we all recognize that you can’t have two sets of rules. There must be one set of rules for all and Bahamians cannot be disadvantaged at the expense of a non-Bahamian or a foreign visitor to the country. So that is the little bit of a conundrum. The Ministry of Health certainly feels that certain protocols must remain in place.”

Visitors coming into the country during this first phase are required to register with the Ministry of Health and take a COVID-19 test before coming.

Resorts and hotels are allowed, starting today, to bring employees back on property to prepare for the full reopening of the tourism sector on July 1.

D’Aguilar is expected to speak in further detail on the state of tourism during COVID-19 when he contributes to the 2020/2021 budget debate in the House of Assembly this week.

Asked whether the tone of his contribution would be uplifting or a stark actualization of current affairs, D’Aguilar said, “A bit of both. We’re in a period of uncertainty. We continue to recognize that the situation is very fluid and there is no hard and fast position that we can take, because circumstances may change on the ground that may require an adjustment. So I just think that we have to be flexible and fluid as the situation dictates,” he said.

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