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Bahamians Drive Out Island Tourism Restart

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamians are driving the "slow" resumption of hotel bookings in the Family Islands as the country gradually re-opens following the COVID-19 lockdown.

Leslie Kennedy, general manager of the Pigeon Cay Beach Club on Cat Island, told Tribune Business: "It's quite slow, but that's OK. I think we should take it slow and gradually get back to taking people. We can only be at 50 percent capacity, and I only have eight cottages."

Ms Kennedy said 12 persons have booked their vacation with her since the July 1 reopening, with domestic tourism leading the way. She added: "I had some folks come in when the domestic travellers were allowed to come after June 15. I did have some come, but just for a couple of houses.

"I still think people are still a little leery of travel, but we have seen more domestic visitors because they don't want to go to the US, which is totally understandable.

"Everybody understands, and we let everybody know what the protocols are prior to coming. We have our signage up that we are required to do, informing people of the importance of wearing face masks and social distancing. Everybody is really respectful of that, which is great."

Albert Archer, owner of the Island Seaside Suites in Eleuthera, said: "Personally, for my place, I've had quite a number of bookings, but my bookings are principally Bahamians, or Bahamians principally out of New Providence. This week I have a Bahamian family out of Atlanta.

"But based on my experience, the bulk of the tourist business works against Bahamians as the bulk of the business goes to the winter residents. The winter residents by and large have that market sewn up, and Bahamians like myself are really struggling. But since Eleuthera reopened, my bookings have been relatively good thanks to the Bahamian market."

Mr Archer said his guests are having no problems adjusting to the COVID-19 heath protocols, and added: "Generally speaking you are just trying to be careful as far as bacteria is concerned. Now you just have to combine that with a virus. I haven't found it taxing.

"Since I have reopened I have had four bookings, and that is better than what I would normally have. There is a resurgence in domestic tourism."

Janice Tolas, general manager of Greenwich Creek Lodge, Long island, said: "Things are very, very slow. I had a couple of guests come in over the last weekend and they were all Bahamians. All local.

"We had a booking for July 13 from a foreigner, and they cancelled because they said they have to quarantine when they go back home. It is fine coming this way, but when they go back they have to self quarantine - they are Americans."

Ms Tolas added: "Everything else is good. It's just the issue with people having to quarantine when they go back, because when they go back they don't get paid because they are doing that on their own, they are making the decision to travel on their own. Other than that I don't have any other issues.

"There is a lot of interest in the Bahamian 'two fly free' programme that the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board has out. There are a lot of people calling about that. Not confirmations, but people asking about it. That's working."

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