NASSAU — The Bahamas has marked July 1 as the official reopening date of its borders and tourism sector following a multi-month closure due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A collaborative reopening plan was announced by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation and the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Committee that will be used as a country-wide guide to health and safety protocols. These include procedures pertaining to entering and departing the destination via airports and seaports as well as cleaning measures at hotels, restaurants and other consumer-facing tourism touchpoints.
“We must remember that we are living in a new normal in the wake of COVID-19 and a lot is going to change across the tourism sector,” said Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Director-General, Joy Jibrilu. “We are putting an even greater emphasis on making sure The Bahamas is safe and clean for everyone and look forward to once again providing travelers with the tropical experience our islands are known for.”
The plan will have a multi-phase approach to ensure critical health and safety protocols are being adhered to.
Phase 1 will begin on June 15 to allow boaters, yachters and private aviation to return to the island. Also, commercial airlines will be allowed to bring in Bahamian citizens, legal residents, home-owners qualifying for economic permanent residency, or the immediate family members or significant others of any of these groups. All returning person will continue to have to register at a Bahamas embassy or consulate to obtain a COVID-19 test with a negative result.
Additionally, phase 1 will see hotels reopening for staff to return to work and putting in place all required safety measures.
Phase 2 will begin July 1, allowing for the resumption of international travel. This includes commercial airlines, both international and domestic, hotels and vacation rentals (inclusive of Airbnb and HomeAway), and transportation ranging from taxis to jitneys and buses.
The timing of other phases and sectors will be announced shortly.
When The Bahamas reopens, travellers are expected to follow the destination’s ‘Healthy Travel Campaign’ that encourages social distancing measures, regular hand washing and the use of appropriate PPE such as face masks.
At airports and seaports, temperature screening for all incoming visitors will be conducted, and travellers will be required to wear a face mask in any situation where it is necessary to enforce physical distancing guidelines, such as when entering and transiting air and sea terminals and at customs screenings and baggage claim. When departing, flights will be scheduled to every other gate to ensure physical distancing during boarding.
Other new procedures include the following:
- Hotels, resorts and vacation rentals will enforce extensive health and safety protocols like enhanced cleaning for guest rooms, public spaces, high touch point areas on frequent, regulated schedule
- Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be readily available across properties
- Employee health monitoring and temperature check points will be enforced
- A limited number of guests will be permitted in elevators at one time
- Unnecessary literature in guest rooms will be eliminated
- Taxis and Independent Cars
- Passengers and drivers should wear face masks at all times throughout their journey.
- Vehicles must reduce the maximum number of people by 50% (sedans can carry up to two persons and SUVs up to four persons) and passengers should not ride in the front seat.
- Excursions, tours, local attractions and shopping
- Businesses must establish a maximum number of guests and limit the duration of each guest visit to allow for social distancing.
- When possible, guests will be encouraged to use personal gear (such as snorkeling gear) and businesses will have items available for purchase.
- Guests will not be allowed to touch products unless with the intent to purchase and cashless sales will be encouraged.
- Beach chairs must be arranged to allow six feet of social distancing between family units.
- A regular cleaning timetable and checklist must be established, reviewed, and maintained.
- Vessel and Ferry Operations
- Staff must wear a water-repellent or marine grade face mask during all passenger interactions and where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- A maximum number of passengers permitted on-board will be reduced by 50% and passenger seating may be assigned to ensure proper distancing.
- Vessel sanitizing must take place before any passenger embarks the vessel and between all passenger exchanges. All high touch surfaces must be constantly and consistently cleaned during passage and at the end of each day.
- Restaurants, Food & Beverage Services
- Buffets will be discontinued until further notice. All meals must be single or prepackaged.
- Businesses must utilize disposable menus or offer on monitors or static display boards.
- Staff must wear PPE (disposable mask and gloves).