Bahamas Travel Health Visa... Necessary scheme or scam?
Since its launch in November 2020, more than 100,000 applicants have paid for the Minnis administration’s mandatory Bahamas Travel Health Visa, and according to Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar the number of daily applicants is consistently increasing. This translates to some much needed coin for a cash strapped economy... and yet another financial burden on an already struggling population if you have travelled since its introduction or you plan to.
The document, acquired via online application at travel.gov.bs with a $25 non-refundable processing fee for domestic travellers and a $40 - $60 non-refundable fee for international travellers, was implemented months after the government’s ill-advised border reopening last July saw COVID-19 case numbers soar throughout the country.
The travel health visa reportedly includes health insurance and for those international travellers – be they visitors or returning citizens and residents, the required follow up rapid antigen test is also included, but Bahamian travellers are questioning whether the visa is really necessary or is it just an easy money-making scheme to rake in a few dollars to aid a failing economy and a government stalled of ideas and hard-pressed to fix it?
In addition to the cost of plane tickets, hotel and other accommodations, travel to the more populated and more popular islands like New Providence and Grand Bahama requires that travellers provide a negative result with the more costly RT-PCR test each way, depending on the length of their stay. The added fee for the visa is a further tax each way, if your stay is longer than a few days.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’ recent announcement that fully vaccinated travellers will still need to purchase the travel health visa only adds fuel to the fire.
So really, is the visa truly necessary or is it just a money-making scam? Should the visa’s fee have been a one-time fee? Why does it expire after just a few days? Exactly how much money has this travel health visa scheme raked in so far and who holds the contract? Why are struggling Bahamians constantly being used as easy money-makers for this administration? Who is the insurance provider and what does that insurance cover? Why are fully vaccinated individuals still required to purchase the travel health visa?
Attempts to have all these questions and more answered have so far proven unsuccessful.