In an interview with the publication, the Bahamas Minister of Tourism and Aviation Dionisio D’Aguilar said he would “encourage” cruise lines to visit the vacation destination’s major cities as soon as no-sail orders have expired.
“Obviously when they start cruising again they will not want to come to the population centers. They will want to go to their private islands because they can control the environment,” he told The Tribune. “As minister of tourism I’m going to encourage them to come to the population centers because that’s where they will make the most economic impact.”
D’Aguilar’s current statements are an about-face from his previous stance from three years ago when he was an adamant critic of the cruise industry.
“The cruise ship companies come in now and make all the money, and we have nothing," he told The Tribune in 2017. At the time, he claimed revenue made from cruise passengers was not making enough of an economic impact on Bahamian local businesses and that cruise lines were hoarding profits.
However, his prior statements were made two years before Hurricane Dorian struck the chain of islands. The Category 5 storm reportedly caused $3.4 billion in damage and left at least 70,000 Bahamians homeless last year, according to the Associated Press and humanitarian info portal ReliefWeb.
The novel coronavirus was declared a global pandemic six months after the devastating hurricane hit, which has suspended cruising around the world and cost cruise lines billions of dollars in losses.
For the Bahamas, D’Aguilar estimates that coronavirus-related shutdowns have cost the nation $540 million based on cruise passenger spending recorded in 2019.
The Bahamas only has 1,036 confirmed coronavirus cases at the time of publication, according to data from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard, whereas the U.S. has more than 5.24 million – a number that could play a role in vacation hotspot’s retention rate given the geographical proximity of the two countries.