80,000 await pay
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Local business owners warily eye the U.S. government shut down and any potential impact on the tourism industry, fearing a continuation that could lead to a drop in visitor arrivals, as around 800,000 federal employees await pay.
With the shutdown entering its 25thth day and Friday marking the first missed pay period for these workers across the United States, planning future trips to The Bahamas will be the last thing on their minds, said Gone FishN Proprietor Haymish Moxey.
“Today the beach was packed with tourists all day with four ships in now and the same thing on Friday and Saturday. So we haven’t seen any effects as yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not coming,” he noted.
“If this continues for another month, I think we are going to see a decline with a lot of travel plans cancelled in the future. It’s hard to tell who are government workers from any other visitor, but the impact of what is going on there means we will likely feel it eventually.”
Without knowing it, Moxey’s cautious outlook speaks to notions already being floated around by affected employees like Maryland native and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employee Valecia Winston, who said she has already cancelled plans next weekend to fly down to a warmer climate.
Given the icy snowstorm passing through Winston’s neighbourhood, it’s a decision that she loathes to make. Yet, without her monthly salary and no idea of how long she may have to go without her wages, she said she cannot in good conscience take a vacation right now.
“This is my first time going through this for such a long time, so it’s a matter of readjusting and reconfiguring my life to this shutdown,” said the 21-year-long government employee. “I was supposed to be in Miami next weekend for a wedding and this situation right here has put a damper on it and it is so depressing and disappointing at the same time.”
Her new year’s resolutions to knock more items off her bucket list – including travel to The Bahamas – have been stayed until she is more certain of her future.
“It’s a place I’ve dreamt of going to for years, but now with this going on it’s pushed even farther back,” she added. “Let’s say I wanted to visit The Bahamas in August, I would have been planning for that right now. So, that means it can’t happen at least until October or the end of this year if this shut ends soon.
“Still, I want to go there and hopefully I’ll get there soon, but I can’t think of anything else right now but day-to-day survival.”
Michelle Munnings, senior vice-president and co-chief executive officer of Nirvana Beach resort, said if many of the affected U.S. government employees plan to delay travel to The Bahamas indefinitely, it will hurt the very people who are the day-to-day backbone of the nation’s tourism industry.
She said it’s a wait and see game for her and her business, which relies heavily on a mix of both cruise and stop over visitors alike.
“Right now, we are not seeing the effects from it as yet, but as time goes on these things tend to show up and could hurt The Bahamas because we are so small and we rely so heavily on tourism,” Munnings warned. “If that continues then we have a lot of Taxi drivers and straw vendors and places like our business that could see a little drop in business.”
While questions to Ministry of Tourism officials on their outlook of the situation went unanswered up to press time last night, not all are worried that The Bahamas is facing true economic danger from this shutdown.
Moxey believes recent challenges with the tourism product in regional countries due to natural disaster has primed the nation to be a top yachting destination for this winter season. He said this could offset any negative fallout from the U.S. government shutdown.
“Because of that we may not feel it as bad as we would have otherwise,” said the Arawak Cay vendor, as he served his many beachside customers on Sunday. “But still, I’ll be watching and following up with this shutdown situation very closely.”
This article was written by Inderia Saunders – Eyewitness News Online contributing writer