By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government should be “very concerned” about a major cruise line’s recently expressed concerns about the country’s crime woes, Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney said yesterday.
He said should the government not get crime under control “we’ll see more cruises looking for different ports”.
In an interview with The Tribune, the former senator said the concerns expressed by Royal Caribbean International (RCI) President and CEO Michael Bayley are “very serious,” as they indicate that RCI is “watching the circumstances concerning crime very closely”.
On Tuesday, Mr Bayley said he is “concerned” about crime levels in the country, stressing that “we want our guests to be very safe” in The Bahamas where more than 600 murders have been recorded over the past five years.
Mr Bayley told The Tribune that if customers do not feel safe visiting the country, they will no longer vacation here, adding that these concerns have been communicated to the government through the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).
And Mr Bayley’s remarks came two weeks after Baha Mar executive Graeme Davis, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) Bahamas president, suggested that if the Christie administration is unable to control crime, the country’s tourism product could be headed in a negative direction.
“We should be very concerned about that as a country,” Mr McCartney said. “We know that the cruise lines bring in a significant amount of tourists to our shores, but we should be very concerned.
“But this is nothing new for the government, this government and the previous government. On the cruise lines today, they warn against the crime in this country to the passengers. You go and you travel on them, they specifically warn against this crime epidemic that we have here, and they tell you to be very careful, not to go to certain places not to take money on shore, that sort of thing. They have those types of notices on the cruise lines.
“So this crime concern that we have is a very serious thing and if we don’t get it under control we’ll see more cruises looking for different ports.”
Mr McCartney also suggested that Mr Bayley’s concerns were not just made in the spur of the moment, charging that The Bahamas’ crime situation has likely been a concern of RCI for some time.
“I think for them to have mentioned that has been in their discussions, and they are watching the circumstances concerning crime very closely in this country,” he said. “And if it’s not fixed I think we’ll get some other announcement from the cruise line indicating that they’re heading elsewhere.”
In 2015, The Bahamas was named by Yahoo Travel as one of the Caribbean’s most dangerous cruise stops.
At the time, Yahoo Travel listed The Bahamas, along with St Lucia, Antigua, St Kitts and Guatemala as “problematic,” citing the US State Department’s latest crime warning to its citizens about escalating criminal activity in the capital.
That same year, Mr McCartney also accused Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe of allegedly refusing to discuss the nation’s crime woes with representatives of a leading cruise line, charging that it would result in a security warning to cruise ship passengers.
At the time, Mr McCartney accused Mr Wilchcombe of ignoring emails from Carnival’s Vice President of Commercial Port Operations Carlos Torres de Navarra on three separate occasions between August 31 and September 26 (2015).
In copies of the emails shown to the media by Mr McCartney, Mr de Navarra expressed the cruise line’s official interest in talking to Mr Wilchcombe about the country’s crime issues.
Mr Wilchcombe maintained that he never received the emails and it was later revealed that the cruise official had incorrectly spelled Mr Wilchcombe’s email address.