Hotels chief: U.S. quarantine drop ‘step in right direction’

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) president said the US dropping its quarantine policy for vaccinated Americans returning from abroad is a “step in the right direction”.

Robert Sands, told Tribune Business yesterday: “Well, it is certainly a move in the right direction for travellers and for the general population. It is also a move towards a more normal existence, which I think is very important and there’s no question that certainly the United States is aggressively trying to vaccinate its population.”

The CDC announced in February that American citizens who have been vaccinated upon return to the US there will be no mandatory quarantine. The two week quarantine had been labelled an industry killer as the US sought to rebound from the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I looked at the latest statistic that maybe the US is close to having 70m vaccinated, so at this point and time they’re getting to maybe about 20 percent of their population,” said Mr Sands.

“The US is vaccinating 2m-3m people a day, which is a good pace, and I think that’s a good thing for the continued rebound of tourism certainly for The Bahamas.”

To move forward itself Mr Sands said The Bahamas should continually work towards sourcing tourists from other markets while getting as many Bahamians vaccinated as possible.

Numerous voices in the tourism industry have expressed anxiety over the need to vaccinate and the pace at which those in the tourism sector are being immunised. Some argue hotel workers should be a priority to stimulate a quick rebound to the Bahamian tourism sector.

“I think that the government will be addressing this particular issue of vaccinations for people in the tourism sector. The Prime Minister alluded to it more than one occasion, so I think should star tuned,” said Mr Sands.

Aashwin Bali, general manager of the Holiday Inn Express, was less enthusiastic about the US government announcing new quarantine guidance to vaccinated Americans. He said: “The thing is you can still catch COVID-19 even after you have been vaccinated and you can still spread COVID-19. Vaccinations will not stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Vaccinations will save you as it will make you more immune towards COVID-19, but you can still spread the disease if you don’t follow the COVID-19 protocols that we have.

“So vaccination is just for your personal safety and boosts your immune system, so by saying that you don’t have to quarantine after you have travelled is not 100 percent right. In my opinion, you still should have a test when you travel in from somewhere and you have to quarantine in terms of the quarantine protocol as well.”

Mr Bali cautioned that despite the increase in vaccinations taking place in key source markets for The Bahamas, the virus is “still spreading”.

“As I said, it is just immune boosters and boosting the human body’s immune system,” added Mr Bali.

Notwithstanding that COVID-19 is still looming over the country, Mr Bali said he had a 50 percent occupancy over the Easter holiday and that Holiday Inn Express is “slowly gathering momentum”. Offers to local tourists that he has been giving offers too, gave the hotel the boost it needed during the Easter break.