Malaysia considers reopening to Tourism
Malaysia is considering easing its border restrictions in a bid to save its battered tourism industry. Any travel agreements will likely start with lower-risk countries in Asia-Pacific.
“We are now working at negotiating with countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and New Zealand which have been identified as green zones,” said Malaysia’s tourism minister Nancy Shukri, according to Malay Mail.
The Southeast Asian nation’s borders remain closed to most foreign visitors since the pandemic broke out in March and have helped limit the spread of Covid-19 domestically. This summer, essential business travel agreements were established with neighboring countries including Singapore.
The border closure has proved to be challenging for many travel operators, with the local tourism industry predicted to lose more than 100 billion ringgit ($24.6 billion) this year. Flag carrier Malaysia Airlines is also expected to undergo restructuring.
In 2019, tourism accounted for 15.9 percent of Malaysia’s GDP, with over 28 million travelers visiting the country.
This month, Malaysia also unveiled a ten-year plan to increase its competitiveness by 2030. The new vision calls for the country to be branded as an ecotourism destination, encouraging sustainable and inclusive growth, according to Reuters.
Press Release 1: Adapted from Businesstraveller.com
By: Samuel Chan
Bahamasair announces fee Adjustments
First checked bag no longer free on Int’l flights…
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamasair, the country’s national flag carrier, announced today there will be changes to domestic fares and baggage fees effective January 4, 2021. The cost of domestic flights will be increasing, the company announced, stating: “The airline has not had a domestic fare increase in the past eight years, and these adjustments have become necessary due to increase[d] operational costs.”
Additionally, the first checked bag on international flights, including flights to and from the US, Cuba, Haiti, and Turks & Caicos, will now be charged at a cost of $25.Previously, the first checked bag was free. “The adjustments to baggage fees allow the airline to better conform with industry standards,” the company noted.
“Customers are reminded that tickets can still be used for future travel and change fees will be waived through May 31, 2021.”
Newly-appointed Minister of State for Finance J Kwasi Thompson hinted at the changes to come earlier this month when the government’s Fiscal Strategy Report was released, as he noted the government was considering cost-recovery measures for Bahamasair and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
“In the case of Bahamasair, which has also been a significant drain on the public purse, the government has accepted the board’s recommendation to undertake in short order, the necessary fare adjustments and operational changes that will eliminate the need for reliance on government subsidies over time,” Thompson said at the time.
“This will allow the airline to become more competitive as it pursues full cost recovery.” As the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a harsh blow on travel around the globe, Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest in October noted the airline’s dire financial situation. The company’s statement today stressed, however, that it remains focused on health and safety as travel gets back into the swing. “Health and safety are, and always will be, paramount at Bahamasair,” the statement read.
“We remain committed to adhering to the best local and international aviation and medical standards, and we thank the traveling public for making us the airline of choice as we connect you to the islands of The Bahamas.”
Press Release 2: Adapted from EWNews.com
By: Eyewitness News
The Caribbean Travel Awards 2021
Luxury Destination of the Year: Grenada
The island of Grenada has quietly seen a luxury boom in recent years, a trend that is continuing with the soon-to-debut Kimpton Kawana Bay and what will be the first-ever Six Senses resort in the Caribbean. Both properties will buoy a very strong offering on the island, from the boutique Calabash hotel to the eco-chic Laluna to Silversands, the latter one of the most beautiful new hotels in the region in years. And Grenada’s low-density, sustainable ambiance is precisely what luxury travelers
Press Release 3: Adapted from Caribjournal.com
By: Caribbean Journal Staff
The Caribbean Travel Awards 2021
Innovative Destination of the Year: The Bahamas
No destination in the wider region is closer to the all-important US market than The Bahamas, and so the country’s tourism decisions have huge ramifications for the industry in the Caribbean. Thankfully, in this most challenging of years, The Bahamas has continued to rise to the challenge, from its initial opening to its late-summer shutdown to a fall tourism relaunch, constantly adapting its tourism industry and setting a standard for destination entry practices amid the pandemic
Press Release 4: Adapted from Caribjournal.com
Date Published: 15/12/2020
By: Caribbean Journal Staff
Lucayan Could Open By Mid-February
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar hopes the Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahama can be turned over to its purchasers by January, telling reporters COVID-19 had brought “frustration” to the deal.
Apart from the challenges brought on by the potentially deadly virus, Mr. D’Aguilar said “everybody is suffering from cash flow deprivation”.
His statement came after Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson’s announcement that officials were eyeing a turnover of the resort by the end of this year to the Holistica Group.
“What is really frustrating about this project is the fact that the world has changed so significantly,” the minister said. “Back in March, we had a deal. It was clear cut (and we were) very optimistic the hotel was going to be sold.
“Of course, the main investor was the Royal Caribbean. So, everybody knows what happened to Royal Caribbean’s core business. It got destroyed and it still isn’t clear when it’s going to resume. So, they now have cash flow concerns and their partner ITM gets most of its revenue from businesses that cater to cruise customers and so the dynamic has changed in that regard.
“However, what is extremely encouraging is they are determined to complete the deal and they want to continue and they’re at the table all the time.
“Obviously the dynamics have changed as to what you can do and how fast you can do it and how much you can spend and all of that given what’s happened in the world of COVID as it relates to the cruise industry. But they are determined to complete the deal and they are always there always fighting to make sure that the deal comes to fruition.
“So, I am encouraged that the interest is extremely keen but just frustrated by the fact that the world has changed so significantly since March and it’s not bringing a timely conclusion to this project.”
Mr. D’Aguilar continued: “Now everybody is suffering from cash flow deprivation and so they are having to work it as best as they can in order to make it work and it’s just very unfortunate that again Freeport seems to have on the cusp of launching this wonderful project with reputable investors who were well healed and well monied to run into this crisis of epic proportions, which has once again thrown a wrench in our well-intended plans.
“So, compound Hurricane Dorian on top of that makes it extremely frustrating but we remain…all indications are through the end of the year.”
Asked if the turnover would come by January, the minister said: “Yeah. There are two elements to this project. The first element is the hotel and the next element of the course is the development of the substantial cruise port in Grand Bahama and so both of those projects have timelines and obviously, you want both of them to happen at the same time. So, for the hotel they are dealing with us (and) for the port they are dealing with Hutchinson (Whampoa).
“So, first of all, you’ve gotta bring all four parties together at the same time in order to make the project go. That is somewhat complex, but it isn’t as if on January one they take control of the company. Let’s say then the hotel starts to fill up there is still substantial work that needs to be done to that property and redevelopment and of course they have their development plans for that property. So, sadly it’s going to take some time even if you hand over operational controls there is going to be the need to do some investment to develop the product that you wish to have.”
COVID-19 has also altered the pace of the investment.
“There is no doubt that the speed at which they were going to do the investment has changed primarily because of the cash flow situation of the principles so certainly Royal Caribbean has indicated that they can only spend money on certain things because they have borrowed money.
“If they have borrowed billions of dollars and the condition of the loan is you can only do certain things with it. They are trying to navigate through the covenants of their loans in order to make sure that they don’t become in violation of them. On the other hand, they are able to make an investment. So, it makes for a challenging negotiation given the fact that COVID-19 has affected everybody, including us.”
Press Release 5: Adapted from Tribune242.com
By: Khrisna Russell
Inter-island Travel Visa Hits Final Stage
THE domestic travel visa, which is expected to facilitate the removal of the two-week quarantine requirement for inter-island travel has now been completed, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dr Minnis said he was informed by Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar that the visa had been finished and will subsequently be rolled out after officials complete its “trial run”.
“I’ve been assured by the Minister of Tourism that the domestic travel visa is now ready and we’re going to do a trial run on it and what that would mean is once that is ready, individuals can now log on to the travel visa and they must partake in that and attach to the travel visa what you call a risk assessment form which is a questionnaire,” Dr Minnis said when asked for an update on the visa.
“They must fill that and complete that every day and they must have the rapid test on the fifth day.”
That is all a part of the travel visa. Once that is in place – and I’m told that it’s completed – then the quarantine would be removed but it’s essential for them to complete the daily risk assessment.”
“If that is not done, there’s a penalty or a fine and I think it’s about a $100 fine for each day or one-week imprisonment for each day because we are taking this matter seriously because their irresponsibleness can jeopardize the future of our country.”
The two-week mandatory quarantine requirement for domestic travel was initially set to be removed on November 8, while individuals traveling from New Providence to any other Family Island would still be required to take a negative RT-PCR test no older than five days old.
But, just two days after this was supposed to be scrapped, Dr. Minnis reimposed the 14-day quarantine for all persons traveling from New Providence to the Family Islands.
Officials later explained the move was due to the domestic travel visa not being ready, with Mr. D’Aguilar telling Tribune Business last week that the domestic travel visa will “roll-out by Friday at the latest.”
Last week, Health Minister Renward Wells maintained the visa was still expected to be completed on Friday, but no further details were provided by tourism officials that confirmed the domestic health visa was ready to be rolled out.
According to Dr. Minnis, the domestic travel requirements – similar to that of the international travel protocols, will require travelers to complete a questionnaire daily as part of a self-assessment process and to also take a rapid antigen test five days after arrival.
His comments came after he urged Bahamians to avoid unnecessary travel abroad, where cases are climbing in many countries.
Since the country re-opened in November, the prime minister said he has received reports of Bahamians not wearing masks while abroad because it is not a requirement there.
“We’ve opened up our borders and we look at what happened last time,” Dr. Minnis said. “The infections were not related to the guests coming in the infections were related to us going out and therefore, I would advise Bahamians not to travel unless absolutely necessary.”
“And one of the reports we’re getting back is a lot of Bahamians are visiting neighbors to the north and other flea markets and other stores and they’re not wearing any masks because that is not a requirement there.”
He added: “But they should wear masks and still practice social distancing and so even because the numbers have gone up in the northern areas and just how over 4,000 were infected, there’s a possibility of even more to be infected because the numbers are higher and there’s a greater chance of you being in contact with individuals. I would advise Bahamians if you’re traveling first and foremost, you should not travel unless absolutely necessary. If you travel, then wear your mask.”
Yesterday, Dr. Minnis also addressed the spike of COVID-19 cases on Grand Bahama, where he noted that health officials are still assessing the island to determine what type of transmission is happening on the island.
“They are assessing to determine community spread but at this particular time, they have isolated the (cases) but that does not rule out the possibility that those individuals either could have had visitors to their place and subsequently move out but viruses have an incubation period.”
Press Release 6: Adapted from Tribune242.com
By: Leandra Rolle
US Virgin Islands Kicks Off Charter Yacht Season
The US Virgin Islands has kicked off its charter yacht industry with the hosting of the USVI Charter Yacht Show.
Last week’s event, held with rigorous health and safety protocols, brought more than 50 charter yacht brokers, with another 100 signings in virtually.
“It was our pleasure to support this year’s U.S. Virgin Islands Charter Yacht Show. The resilience of this industry has allowed for tourism to flourish despite these challenging times,” said Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism. “The marine industry is a very important sector to our overall tourism product, and we look forward to marketing the charter yachting sector along with all other marine businesses throughout the Territory. We hope that attendees, both in person and virtually, enjoyed this year’s event and recognize the endless opportunities this destination offers mariners. As we continue to navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic, we are encouraged by the interest we’ve seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands by this important community.”
It was a big boost for the industry, which is “well-positioned” to provide a safe vacation option for visitors amid the pandemic, thanks to small groups of passengers and crew, ample time at sea, and frequent stops at secluded anchorages, according to the Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association.
“Something we are particularly proud of is the healthy and effective communication between government and the private sector. This truly creates an environment of progress and growth and we are very thankful to all those involved that have assisted in this endeavor,” said Dare Blankenhorn, VIPCA president and owner of St. Thomas-based Charter Caribe. “The end of this successful 2020 Charter Yacht Show marks the beginning of a new phase for the USVI Marine Industry. We recognize the challenges that still sit in front of us, but we are confident in the agility of our business community and the greatness of our natural assets. Keep your eyes out for big things coming to the marine industry here in the USVI, as we navigate the waters of the modern world.”
The US Virgin Islands reopened for tourism in September.
Press Release 7: Adapted from Caribjournal.com
By: Caribbean Journal Staff
The Bahamas’ Atlantis Resort Just Reopened
The Atlantis Paradise Island megaresort in The Bahamas has completed its comeback, Caribbean Journal has learned.
The Paradise Island institution officially reopened its doors to visitors this week after having been closed amid the pandemic.
“We are elated to announce that we are officially open,” the property wrote in a statement.
The property also announced the completion of a renovation project of its Royal East Tower guest rooms, along with a host of new offerings “with your safety and well-being in mind.”
The mutt-resort property’s reopening is launching in stages; it kicked off this week with the relaunch of The Royal resort and the Harborside Resort.
On Dec. 17, Atlantis will reopen The Reef resort.
The majority of the resort’s amenities are open and operating, from the casino to the marina to the spa to the Ocean Club Golf Course.
Atlantis’ popular Aquaventure water park is also open each day, with the Mayan Temple Slides and Power Tower rides and slides open again.
Pools are operating at reducing seating, with 50 percent capacity and physical distancing in place — that includes seven pools in total.
Four beaches are open, with the Cove Beach set to open for the holidays from Dec. 22 to Jan. 3.
And the resort’s vast shopping offering is also back, headlined by the return of the Crystal Court and Marina Village stores.
The Bahamas recently entered a new phase of its tourism reopening that eliminated the mandatory quarantine.
All travelers need to present a negative PCR test within 5 days before their flight and complete an application for a Bahamas Travel Health Visa. You can find more on the country’s opening protocols here.
For more, visit Atlantis Paradise Island.
Press Release 8: Adapted from Caribjournal.com
By: Caribbean Journal Staff