By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Minister of Tourism yesterday pledged to "impress upon the Americans" that Arawak Cay's Fish Fry is safe, describing Washington D.C's travel advisory as "much ado about nothing".
A day after expressing concern over the warning not to visit Arawak Cay at night, Dionisio D'Aguilar expressed optimism that the US travel advisory would not deter Americans or any other visitors from visiting the popular food and cultural destination. "I don't think it's going to deter foreign visitors from going there, but it's another headache we have to deal with," the Minister told Tribune Business from New York, where he was engaged in a series of meetings with international travel media.
"I'm going to inquire why they felt it was necessary now, seemingly out of the blue, to issue this [advisory]. It's caught tourism by surprise. There's just nothing on the radar to suggest this travel advisory, this decision, is necessary.
"I think it's much ado about nothing, and we're going to impress upon the Americans that Arawak Cay is safe, the Bahamas is safe, and 99.9 per cent of visitors that come to this country have a wonderful vacation free of any drama. We've got to keep hitting that message."
The US travel advisory released on Wednesday appeared relatively mundane and little different from normal, apart from the section where it advised American visitors against visiting the Arawak Cay Fish Fry at night.
"If you decide to travel to the Bahamas, avoid the area known as 'Over-the-Hill' (south of south of Shirley Street) and Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau at night," the advisory said, amid a repetition of previous statements designed to deter Americans from visiting the Sand Trap or doing business with local jet ski operators.
Arawak Cay vendors yesterday told Tribune Business they feared the US travel advisory would result in a sharp deterioration in business, given that American visitors accounted for a significant percentage of trade during daylight hours.
Mr D'Aguilar, meanwhile, reiterated that he was "at a loss as to why" the US government would issue an advisory on Arawak Cay, adding: "I would think that thousands upon thousands of foreign visitors will continued to come to Arawak Cay and have an amazing experience.
"It's just unfortunate they [the US government] would see fit all of a sudden to pop up out of the blue and issue this travel advisory. I do note, though, that this is a travel advisory and not a travel warning, which is a bit harsher.
"I'm not concerned," the Minister continued. "It's a travel advisory. Look at the designation and definition. It tells tourists to exercise sensible caution and to take into account their surroundings.
"Most Americans that go there have an amazing time, and immerse themselves into Bahamian culture and food. It's generally accepted as very safe, very experiential, going out there and hanging out at Junkanoo. Some 6.3 million visitors come to the Bahamas annually, and I can count on one hand those that get into problems.
"The Bahamas is safe, the Caribbean is safe, especially when compared to many European and US cities. People have a better piece of mind when they travel to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. This advisory is certainly something we could have done without, as I don't think there's any incident to-date that should have caused someone to issue it out of the blue."