By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
ARAWAK Cay vendors yesterday hit back at a “double whammy” of crime warnings by accusing a major cruise line of “getting it all mixed up” and hurting their businesses.
Businesses at the popular Bahamian food and cultural hub pushed back against separate warnings by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Canadian government that the Fish Fry is an area of “particular concern”as a crime hotspot and should be avoided by tourists.
Dwight Armbrister, proprietor of D’Waters Cafe, told Tribune Business that Royal Caribbean’s warning may be part of a deliberate strategy by the cruise line and its rivals to keep their passengers on-board in port and deter them from visiting Nassau.
“Sometimes the cruise lines get it all mixed up. At Junkanoo beach some people carry the name ‘Fish Fry’ because they want to trap people right there,” he said.
“These incidents they refer to may not even be in this vicinity at all. We are very vigilant out here and the police are visible. If there are any incidents out here they are extremely rare, but they normally get Junkanoo Beach and Fish Fry mixed up.”
“That type of thing will hurt business. Sometimes the cruise lines are trying to get the guests to stay on the ship as long as possible, and we are trying to get them off. When I was at tourism, as director of religious tourism that was a concern for us; how do we combat that?”
Terrell Johnson, a manager at Goldie’s, told this newspaper: “We don’t really have any problems on this side; maybe there are issues at Junkanoo Beach. They’re saying Arawak Cay but some of that is Junkanoo Beach and they’re just throwing everything together. Business is up and down at times, but the tourists are still coming. The taxi drivers help to bring a lot of the tourists here.”
She added: “One of the things I think needs to be done is there needs to be better lightning out here in the evenings.”
The controversy was sparked after Captain Srecko Ban, in a letter to Anthem of the Seas passengers that was dated December 26, 2018, wrote: “We feel it is important to make our guests aware that Nassau has been experiencing an increase in crime. Non-violent crimes, such as theft of personal items, are the most common types of crimes being committed.”
The Royal Caribbean captain’s letter, which was published on a well-known cruise industry website, conceded that “thousands of visitors routinely travel to Nassau without incident” before offering personal safety tips.
However, Captain Ban then added: “We recommend guests not venture too far from tourist areas and consider participating in an organised tour. Particular areas of concern include the Sand Trap, the Fish Fry and other areas of Nassau referred to as ‘Over-the-Hill’ by locals, which should be avoided after sunset.”
The Royal Caribbean letter appears to mirror, and regurgitate, the concerns outlined in the US State Department’s January 2018 travel advisory on The Bahamas, which also urged American visitors to stay clear of the Arawak Cay Fish Fry - a major hub where tourists can experience Bahamian culture and cuisine.
And, in what can be considered a double blow for Arawak Cay, the same language was also repeated in the Canadian government’s revised December 20 travel advisory to its citizens.
“Avoid Nassau’s ‘Over the Hill’ (south of Shirley Street) and Fish Fry (Arawak Cay) areas, especially at night,” the Canadian advisory warned, while also cautioning its citizens about renting jet skis and dealing with the water sports industry.
“The water sports rental industry is poorly regulated in The Bahamas. Tourists have been seriously injured using jet skis and other watercraft,” it added. “Be wary when embarking on jet ski rides with licensed or unlicensed operators, as several incidents of sexual assault have been reported. Rent water sports equipment from reputable, locally registered operators only.”
Meanwhile Jean Milfortaurel, operator of the Conch Bar at Arawak Cay, told Tribune Business of the advisories: “I just started working out here a few weeks ago. I can’t really say anything about crime. While I have been out here business has been OK. Nothing has happened while I’ve been out here.”
Another vendor, who did not wish to be identified, told Tribune Business: “There’s always concern about crime. You have a bunch of criminal activity around here, that’s a fact.”