NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Following warnings issued by the Canadian government and Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas this month on the safety of visitors at Fish Fry, Rodney Russell, president of the Arawak Cay Conch, Fish, Vegetable and Food Vendors Association asserted yesterday that the popular cultural village and string of restaurants is being unfairly targeted.
Speaking with Eyewitness News Online, Russell, the owner of Red Snapper, said Arawak Cay is safe and there have been no incidents in the last year that warrant advisories against visiting the area.
“It appears to me that the Anthem of the Seas’ advisory is an advisory coming from something that stems back from 2017 when there was a problem at the place called the Sand Trap,” said Russell, citing a shooting in November 2016 which prompted American officials to declare the St. Albans Drive nightspot off limits for their employees.
“Early in 2018, after the hurricane, we had some issues with lighting. I spoke with the government concerning the situation. Since then, our government has illuminated Arawak Cay.
“There is no problem in Arawak Cay.
“If there were problems in Arawak Cay, I would have known about it and the relevant authorities and I would have sat down to solve the problems.
“There are no problems at the Fish Fry or with our guests or our Bahamian visitors who frequent Arawak Cay.
“We understand tourism is our bread and butter and we look out particularly for our guests.
He added, “We have done everything possible in The Bahamas and at Arawak Cay to support our visitors and our guests. We are bending over backwards to make sure every visitor that visits The Bahamas enjoys themselves here at the Fish Fry.”
In a December 20 advisory, the Canadian government said visitors to should exercise a “high degree of caution in The Bahamas due to high rates of crimes, especially in Freeport and Nassau.”
It acknowledged the decrease in crime since the beginning of 2018, but said violent crimes persists.
It said armed robberies, burglaries, purse snatching, theft, fraud and sexual assaults were the most common crimes committed against travelers.
The travel warning also advised that robberies take place in cruise ship terminals and in and around popular resorts.
It recommended avoiding Over-the-Hill and Fish Fry/Arawak Cay, especially at night.
In a purported letter to guests dated December 26, Anthem of the Seas advised guests that Nassau has been experiencing an “increase in crime”.
“Non-violent crimes, such as theft of personal items are the most common types of crime being committed,” the letter read.
“It is important to note that thousands of visitors routinely travel to Nassau without incident.
“However, visitors to Nassau, like visitors to all major foreign cities in the world today need to be mindful of their personal safety.”
It said to lower the risk of becoming a victim, guests should, among other things, avoid venturing “too far from tourist areas” and noted that Sand Trap, Fish Fry and Over-the-Hill were particular areas of concern.
The letter was purportedly signed by Captain Srecko Ban.
A woman patronizing Red Snapper yesterday said she visits Fish Fry alone regularly and feels safe.
She did not wish to go on the record, but spoke of her travels to Canada, the United States and Europe, insisting crimes occur in popular tourist areas around the world.
She pointed to another table where three women sat, and asked them if they felt safe.
Each of them responded positively about their experience at Arawak Cay.
Meanwhile, Russell questioned whether the area was being targeted to divert business elsewhere.
“It appears to be there is some sinister move to create a problem for the Fish Fry; maybe because they feel we are some low-hanging fruits that you can just pick on and if it is possible you could defame us,” he said.
“Now, I understand what is going on and I think that it is wrong when The Bahamas government and its people pay cruise ships large amounts of money to bring people to The Bahamas and [they] would make such accusations…, knowing that The Bahamas is also the cruise ships’ bread and butter.”
Despite Russell’s assurances about the safety of Arawak Cay, another restaurant owner, who did not wish to go on record for fear of being targeted, said the standard at the Fish Fry needs to be improved, including safety protocols.
He said while many will not admit it, authorities in the area are as not as effective as they should be.
He also claimed there are a number of people at the Fish Fry who prey on unsuspecting tourists, some of whom he claimed seek to buy drugs and get robbed in the process.