Travel health visa requirement still in place for visitors
Cooper hints manual immigration landing card to be axed “in the end”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Tourism Minister Chester Cooper advised in Parliament yesterday that starting December 13, Bahamians and residents will now not require health visas to return home.
The travel visa, nevertheless, will remain in place for visitors “for the foreseeable future”.
During a contribution in Parliament, Cooper explained that while testing requirements will remain in place for all travelers, those protocols are currently under review by the Ministry of Health.
“We imagine that this provides a level of protection for the health and safety of all in The Bahamas by vetting the authenticity of documents by the Bahamas Health Travel Visa Program, well prematurely of travel,” he said.
“The visa has also allowed us to assemble key data for evaluation and marketing, and the means to higher communicate events that will impact travel.
“We foreshadow further that the manual immigration landing card will probably be eliminated in the end.
“We’re satisfied that after this process is digitized, it’s going to create an extra convenience to our tourists and foreign business travelers.”
Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis promised earlier this yr that a Progressive Liberal Party-led government would end travel health visa requirements for Bahamians and visitors upon taking office.
The party had continually asserted that the travel visa was an unnecessary tax imposed by the Free National Movement government.
Upon coming to office, the Davis administration removed the travel health visas requirement for domestic travel in The Bahamas, and as of October 1, Bahamians and residents of The Bahamas, whether vaccinated against COVID-19 or not, now not needed to pay travel health visa fees to travel internationally.
The fees were left in place for visitors.
The health visa has been adjusted several times since its rollout, based on local and global changes with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooper advised yesterday that the net visa platform experienced interruptions and delays for a brief period on December 5 and 6.
The interruptions were reportedly because of power outages and other technical glitches at Cable Bahamas, which serves as the info host.
“This was most unacceptable and regrettable,” Cooper said.
“We, due to this fact, apologize to the traveling public for this inconvenience. I actually have asked that our service providers put in place the suitable redundancy in order that this doesn’t recur.”
The tourism minister noted that the federal government has accomplished its promised review of all of the contracts related to the visa platform and renegotiations are underway with all partners.
The travel health visa was placed under the highlight earlier this yr amid assertions that the Minnis administration awarded the contract for this system based on political affiliation — an accusation the previous administration and online payment retailer Kanoo have rejected.
Cooper further pointed to a recent change to the USA’ travel regime requiring international travelers to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken not more than in the future before boarding a flight to the US.
“The Bahamas is well-positioned to adapt to this new requirement as many hotel properties offer on-site testing, making the method for visitors as efficient as possible, with ample off-property testing sites also available throughout The Bahamas,” he added.
“We remain optimistic for a sturdy winter travel season with ample direct airlift available from key markets, ample testing facilities, in addition to accommodations and countless options of things to see, do and experience, to suit every variety of vacation seeker, making The Bahamas a seamless travel opportunity.”
Data from the health visa indicates a mean of 62 percent of all visitors to The Bahamas are fully vaccinated, with six percent of those unvaccinated being children under the age of 12 who don’t yet qualify for the vaccine, he said.