By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Harbour Island resort operators yesterday said the post-COVID tourism rebound has exceeded expectations by 25-30 percent, and added: Were still rocking and rolling.
Joseph Dargavage, partner at Romora Bay Resort & Marina, told Tribune Business that if present momentum is maintained - and aided by the removal of COVID-19 PCR testing requirements from May 1 - then the boating and yachting sector may return to normal pre-COVID business volumes as early as winter 2021.
Revealing that this would be a season or two earlier than his own predictions, Mr Dargavage said he presently sees no signs of the excellent Spring rebound enjoyed by many Harbour Island and Family Island resorts and marinas letting up.
Also an Association of Bahamas Marinas (ABM) vice-president, he added: The boaters and yachters have definitely found their way back to The Bahamas. Speaking specifically to Harbour Island, both marinas - Valentines and Romora Bay - had excellent months in March and April.
For Romora Bay, from May going through July and rolling into the summer months, I dont see it letting up. Now add in May 1, and the ability for fully vaccinated people to come in without testing, and that really is going to boost the summer tourism industry even more. We see no reason why, in the Out Islands of The Bahamas and Harbour Island, the summer months cannot be excellent.
Mr Dargavage said fully vaccinated visitors have already started arriving at Romora Bay, adding that the resort was continuing to have people calling daily asking about The Bahamas new entry policies for persons who have had two jabs.
Both from an ABM and Romora Bay perspective it has gone beyond expectations, he added. We were hoping and thinking this might happen, but no one knew for sure. I would say its exceeded expectations by over 25-30 percent. Were grateful and blessed these boats and yachts have chosen The Bahamas as their first destination after this pandemic.
I would say that by winter season 2021, the fall and winter season of 2021, we should be getting back to normal in the boating and yachting sector. Me personally, I thought it would take a season or two. As long as we keep doing the right things and adhering to the protocols, both locals and the tourist community, then theres no reason why we cannot stay on this path.
While the overloading of the Governments health travel visa website by fully vaccinated visitors seeking to book their vacation several months out remains a potential impediment to The Bahamas tourism rebound, especially since applications are now restricted to within 14 days of travel, Family Island destinations have rebounded more rapidly than the countrys mass market locations.
The Central Bank reported that Family Island air arrivals for the 2021 first quarter were only 30 percent down on their 2020 comparative, which was only impacted by the pandemic in its last three weeks, indicating that high-end tourists in the niche private aviation and yachting markets were starting to return to locations where social distancing was easier to achieve.
Benjamin Simmons, proprietor of The Other Side and Ocean View properties, confirmed the growing optimism by revealing that occupanciesat his resort were in the 80-90 percent range following what he described as a record March.
Agreeing that the removal of COVID testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors will serve as a further boost, Mr Simmons said: Were still rocking and rolling here it seems. Were still banging. Were running at 80-90 percent occupancy, and had the best March on record.
I know the real estate market is insane. Were very fortunate. Business has been great, and interest seems high. The vaccination thing hasnt really resonated yet, but I think it will. The news has not got out to the masses yet; the removal of the test based on being vaccinated. As it is, weve not seen any particular uptick, but I think it will make a difference come later in the summer.
Mr Simmons said theres so much pent-up demand, so much need fortravel that persons were travelling even though they may still have to produce a negative COVID-19 PCR test. People are accustomed to taking the test; its a way of life, he added.
He agreed, though, that the US vaccination roll-out and removal of The Bahamas testing requirement for those with two jabs will further enhance the comfort and confidence associated with travelling to The Bahamas.
May is looking great, Mr Simmons told Tribune Business. People are booking two to three weeks in advance. Were full up with weddings in the summer. The gaps are filling in. Its definitely looking like one of the best summers weve had.
Id say were looking at 70-80 percent occupancies. Last year we were at 5-60 percent for that May to June period. People start wanting to come, and everybody wants to get out and get a break.
Originally posted here:
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