Govt rescues 'last hurrah' for hoteliers

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamian resorts yesterday said the government had preserved their “last hurrah” through its u-turn on requiring locals to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test to stay in them over the weekend.

Clinton Davis, the Courtyard Marriott’s general manager, told Tribune Business that the initial mandate has already impacted business significantly. “To my understanding, there is going to be a rescind of that order,” he added.

“I don’t know when they are going to do it, but I did receive an e-mail that there is going to be a reverse in the decision from the Ministry of Tourism so I am just waiting on that rescind order. We know that Bahamians not being able to go to a hotel will definitely impede this business and, of course, the Bahamians that we do have employed here will most likely be sent home.

“This is our last hurrah of trying to keep a few people still employed. Our hotel is all 100 percent Bahamian-ran and managed, and so it will be affecting our Bahamian economy drastically if that had to happen. I am happy that the rescind order is going to take place so I just await that.

The Ministry of Tourism duly obliged within hours of Mr Davis talking to Tribune Business. Glenda Johnson, its chief licensing officer, in an e-mail notification sent to another senior hotel executive that was obtained by this newspaper, said: “Please be advised that the Prime Minister has reversed the decision. However, hoteliers are to be reminded that strict adherence to the protocols is to be followed.”

An official Ministry of Tourism statement said: “The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation wishes to advise that following consultation with the Ministry of Health, the Competent Authority has affirmed that a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test will not be required by Bahamian and resident guests of hotels.”

It added that public health measures must be observed, including mask wearing, social distancing and sanitisation protocols. Indoor dining is to be closed.

Muna Issa, managing director of SuperClubs Breezes, said: “We are very happy that the order requiring Bahamians to have a negative COVID test prior to checking in was reversed today. We are expecting Bahamians this weekend, so we are trying to determine how we will serve guests outdoors (in order to comply with the order) in light of Tropical Storm Isaias expected to deliver rainfall Friday evening into Saturday.”

Another small hotelier, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said: “The weekend lockdown is something that really helps, but this mandate of a negative COVID-19 test for all Bahamians is really putting a damper and a real big dent on small businesses right now. This is a shock, but what I will say is that this will only kill the small man.”