NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The ‘perception of safety’ in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be critically important for tourist destinations like The Bahamas, according to a leading travel trend expert. Peter Yesawich, vice-chairman emeritus of MMGY Global, suggested yesterday that there will likely be a ‘hesitation’ in US leisure travel through the summer and into the fall. MMGY Globl is a leading US marketing, advertising and public relations agency specializing in serving travel, leisure and entertainment clients. Yesawich spoke at a recent Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) meeting on US traveler intentions. “I think that given the proximity and ease of access, people tend to see that as less of a challenging trip, not in the same way they look at a trip to say Europe or Asia,” said Yesawich. Yesawich noted that based on a recent survey the firm conducted, two thirds of the 1,200 nationally represented travelers surveyed who had travel activity planned prior to the pandemic had canceled. It was also noted that there has been no data to suggest that travelers were ready to ‘jump back in’ and travel for leisure. Yesawich underscored the domestic US travel market serves as a proxy for the Caribbean, adding that the impact of the pandemic on person’s financial health and budget is going to be significant. “I think we are going to see this hesitation linger through the summer into the fall, as scientist work on vaccine,” said Yesawich. “The perception of safety is going to be a critical aspect. We believe the gatekeeper to open up the sort of pent up demand is going to be the individual perception of safety around getting on an international flight and stepping into a resort. The gatekeeper is not going to open until people feel less vulnerable to the virus.” Yesawich further noted that market demand is going to shift more to upper income travelers. “These are the persons that will have the discretionary income. Market demand is going to shift to more upper income, affluent households. They will have obvious dictionary income to think about a Caribbean vacation.” This, according to Yesawich, will affect marketing as well as pricing. The Bahamas has been leading the way in consumer interest in leisure travel to destinations within the Caribbean the firm’s research showed. Further, Yesawich noted that the strength of the region as a whole is not going to go away. “It’s going to have the same appeal. It’s probably going to take a little longer for things to come back but when it does it will assume its position in the hierarchy of where American travelers want to go,” he said. Yesawich said leisure travel has been proven to bounce back quickly but noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is quite different from the fall-out in the travel industry following the September 11 terrorist attacks.