The closure of the Bahamas’s borders to US tourists is unlikely to impact confirmed charters already booked by American clients, brokers have said.
On Monday, the Bahamas announced it would close its borders to US visitors following a spike in coronavirus cases. In a national address, Hubert Minnis said the changes would come into force today, July 22, while Bahamasair ceased all outgoing flights to the United States immediately. The decision came less than three weeks after the Bahamas reopened its borders to international visitors.
It is understood that the rules will only apply to US visitors arriving on commercial flights and vessels, which will no longer be permitted to land on the islands from midnight tonight.
However, private international flights and charters of private vessels will be allowed to continue.
“Americans can still enter the Bahamas via private boat or plane,” explained Northrop & Johnson charter broker Jessica Engelmann, “which means yacht charters are still commencing.”
Fraser charter broker Melanie Burke added: “At the moment, the Bahamas is still allowing US guests arriving on private aircraft, including chartered private aircraft, as well as pleasure vessels coming from the US.”
Even when entering via private plane or boat, US visitors must be prepared to present a negative COVID-19 rt-PCR test taken within 10 days of travel, as well as an approved Bahamas health visa.
Despite this, Burke said that disruption to charters already booked by US clients was unlikely.
“I have had many charters in the Bahamas since they reopened for private air and yacht charters and 95% of my clients were flying private so this change has not affected them.” However, she acknowledged that the border closure “will cause uncertainty for some”.
Engelmann agreed, adding that the Bahamas charter market is currently swamped with enquiries.
“I’ve heard of a couple cancellations, however this only opens charter availability up to others who prefer to fly private, and it’s likely those boats will get re-booked.
“It is extremely busy with interest and bookings, as the Bahamas are an excellent way to social distance.”
Burke added that Fraser has added clauses into charter agreements that allow clients to cancel or reschedule their charter if travel restrictions prevent them from travelling to the yacht.
“I have found my clients still want to travel,” she said. “Most of their summer plans have been cancelled and most are still willing to confirm a charter reservation for the summer as long as there is wording in the contract to protect them as needed.”