Says Level Two advisory does not urge a delay or cancellation of travel plans
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – On the heels of last week’s travel advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism (MOT) said it is aware of the recent update, and overall, the United States’ advisory to citizens remains at Level Two, which recommends caution but does not urge a delay or cancellation of travel plans.
The MOT, in a statement issued Sunday, recommends that travellers to any destination maintain awareness of their surroundings and exercise basic precautions, as they likely would in their home cities and when not on holiday.
The MOT said in reality, the vast majority of the country’s six million visitors who travel to The Bahamas annually, do so without incident.
“According to Royal Bahamas Police data for 2018, there were only 43 incidents involving tourists, of which 30 involved U.S. nationals and nearly all were minor offences,” the MOT said.
“The Ministry of Tourism appreciates the efforts of law enforcement and congratulates authorities on the progress they have made in significantly reducing serious crimes like murder (-25%), armed robbery (-18%), attempted robbery (-19%) and shoplifting (-23%).
“The safety of residents and visitors is of paramount importance, and efforts to maintain and improve security are a constant priority for Bahamian authorities as is true for all governments.”
The U.S. Department of State reissued a Level Two travel advisory last Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, warning U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting because of crime.
A similar advisory was issued in January 2018.
Visitors were also told not to answer the door at their hotel/residence, unless they know who is on the other side, and not to physically resist any robbery attempt.
But yesterday, the MOT said safety and security efforts include the use of CCTV in addition to a heightened police presence with foot, bicycle and motor patrols across all areas referenced in the advisory and tourist areas, including additional Beach Enforcement Officers that have been deployed to beaches frequented by visitors.
The MOT said regular communication is also in effect between the Royal Bahamas Police Force Land and Marine Units, Royal Bahamas Defence Force Harbour Patrol Unit and the Ministry of Tourism to ensure concerns are addressed quickly.
The MOT said it also supports the various steps taken to address needed changes in regulation and enforcement of measures to ensure the safety of watercraft activities.
According to the MOT, the Port Department and, by extension, the Ministry of Transport and Local Government have sought to strengthen its laws governing vessels (including enhancements to the Commercial Recreational Watercraft Act) through the adoption of regional safety codes and requirements under the Small Commercial Vessel Code and Caribbean Cargo Ship Safety Code.
Such Codes, the MOT said, stipulate higher inspection standards, mandatory safety equipment required on board vessels, criteria for domestic or home built vessels, dry docking inspections and increased ship manning requirements.
“These measures are being aggressively maintained or pursued by the Ministry of Transport and Local Government and the Port Department to ensure the Maritime Industry is effectively regulated, thus ensuring the safety of visitors and all seafarers,” the MOT said, adding that this effort includes joint and coordinated sea patrols by the Police Marine Unit, Defence Force Harbour Patrol Unit and the Port Department, and development of a citation and ticketing system for those not in compliance.
“Safety and security on land and at sea is critically important for visitors and for the Bahamian people,” the MOT’s statement read.
“Aggressive efforts are underway across all relevant Bahamian ministries and departments to ensure that our islands remain a destination that provides a welcoming environment where visitors enjoy our culture and our citizens enjoy economic opportunity.”