By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
With thousands of cruise ship visitors expected in Nassau on Monday, the Downtown Nassau Partnership (DNP) said it was “critical” that the Cabinet Office relent and allow Bay Street retailers and other amenities to open on the Emancipation Day holiday.
Responding to Tribune Business’s inquiries, after the Cabinet Office yesterday published a notice warning that all retailers - apart from food stores, pharmacies and gas stations - “must be kept closed” on Monday, the DNP said it had written to the Government on the matter.
Pointing out that Bay Street and downtown Nassau stores had received exemptions from the Public Holidays Act closure requirements in the past, via the Nassau Tourism and Development Board’s (NTDB) representation, the DNP said it was seeking a “permanent change” to the law to allow this.
If Bay Street retailers and associated amenities are not allowed to open on Monday, they and their staff face losing out on potentially thousands of dollars in revenue.
And Nassau’s reputation as a tourist destination, with lots of things to do, could also suffer. The DNP confirmed that the cruise industry had expressed its concerns over the issue, and two ships - Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, with a 6,000 passenger capacity, and Carnival’s Ecstasy, are due to call in the Bahamian capital on Monday.
The DNP told Tribune Business: “As the Downtown Nassau Partnership works on initiatives to beautify and revitalise downtown, we think it is critical that shopping and amenities continue to be able to provide the services demanded by downtown’s guests - both locals and tourist alike.
“The store closure, as mandated by Section 3 of the Public Holiday Act, will certainly have an impact on the cruise and tourism industry. Our destination needs to continue to be opened for business, so that we can compete with our counterparts in the industry.”
And the DNP added: “Shop closures will impact the ability for retailers to earn revenues. In an already challenging retail market, it is important that all businesses have their maximum exposure to customers when they are here.
“With two cruise ships in port on Monday, Allure of the Seas and Carnival Ecstasy, we are looking at a few thousand cruise ship guests that will be in Downtown Nassau.”
Tribune Business understands that the Cabinet Office notice caused consternation among in-port and shipping agents of the cruise line, who wanted to know whether they should advise their clients that Nassau will be a closed city on Monday.
Acknowledging the historical precedent, the DNP said such situations had happened before. It added that Bay Street and downtown retailers had been exempted from the Public Holidays Act in the past, and it is understood the DNP and government are now talking on the current issue.
“This has happened before, and the Cabinet Office certainly has the ability to allow stores to open up,” the DNP told Tribune Business.
“In fact, the Nassau Tourism & Development Board has written to seek exemption for stores in downtown to open up on public holidays in the past, and it has been granted.
“The Downtown Nassau Partnership seeks the Government’s support to amend the Act to allow all stores in the Downtown area to remain open during public holidays to service both locals and visitors.
“Our partners in the cruise industry have expressed their concern to us, and even today we wrote to the Cabinet seeking clarification on the same, and have requested on behalf of the retailers in Downtown to consider having stores opened on public holidays as a permanent change.”