Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar suggested yesterday that the government was blindsided by a recent Canadian advisory which cautioned travellers against visiting Arawak Cay, among other areas.
Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, the tourism minister said he does not understand what prompted the advisory and has not observed anything in the last year at the popular string of restaurants known as the Fish Fry that warrants the warning.
“Once again, I hate to be blindsided by these reports and I am not aware of what is bringing them to this conclusion,” he said.
“Are there specific incidents that have happened on a regular basis; I am not aware of them.
“Fish Fry, at least recently — I mean this blew up when the Americans put out their warning in January.
“I haven’t heard of any significant or major incidents that have happened down at the Fish Fry to cause this type of warning to be put out.
“Is one report feeding off the other?
“Are they saying the Americans said it, so we have to say it too?
“I’m just unaware of a reason for them to specifically target that area.
“I see many, many tourists down there having a wonderful time, enjoying Bahamian cuisine.”
In a December 20 advisory, the Canadian government said visitors should exercise a “high degree of caution in The Bahamas due to high rates of crimes, especially in Freeport and Nassau”.
It noted a decrease in crime since the beginning of 2018, but said incidents persist involving travellers, namely armed robberies, burglaries, purse snatching, theft, fraud and sexual assaults.
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, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas also advised guests about high levels of crime in Nassau, though it acknowledged that thousands visit without incident.
“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 recommended visitors, among other things, avoid venturing “too far from tourist areas” and said Sand Trap, Fish Fry and Over-the-Hill were particular areas of concern.
The letter was purportedly signed by Captain Srecko Ban.
In January, the U.S. Department of State warned its citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting The Bahamas due to crime and urged visitors to avoid Over-the-Hill and Fish Fry at night.
As it relates to the Anthem of the Seas warning, D’Aguilar said there were two incidents were visitors were robbed. He said he understand one of the guests threatened to sue the cruiseliner because it had not made them aware of the January advisory issued by the U.S.
Pointing out that 3.6 million cruise passengers visit Nassau each year, D’Aguilar said there will be incidents of crime, but he contended there could be crime warnings for nearly every major city across the world, including Toronto.
D’Aguilar said his wife’s handbag was stolen when visited Toronto, Canada.
He asked if that warranted The Bahamas issuing a crime advisory for Bahamians travelling to the country.
“We all think Toronto is a safe place,” the minister said.
“Sitting in a hotel lobby and someone stole her handbag, right from under her; grabbed it from here; ran out; jumped into a car and drove away.
“So, do incidents happen, yes.
“Does it warrant the type of warning they are putting out, I think not.”
D’Aguilar said though government officials meet U.S. officials monthly to discuss safety and security matters, this degree of engagement does not happen with Canadian officials, largely due to a lack of representation in The Bahamas.
“We have to reach out to the high commission and I think the high commission for Canada; I think the high commission in Jamaica covers The Bahamas so we have to have those discussions with them when they see fit to visit Nassau,” he added.