By LEANDRA ROLLE
THE government believes travel advisories issued by the US State Department should be revisited, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield, who stated yesterday the warnings “are counterproductive” to the country’s tourism industry.
The issue, the foreign affairs minister said, was among the many topics discussed with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his two-day working visit in Jamaica with CARICOM leaders last week.
US warnings issued in the past have cautioned American tourists or citizens against visiting certain areas in Nassau due to high levels of crime, with the most recent alerts prohibiting US government personnel from visiting the area of the former Sand Trap in New Providence.
The alert also criticised activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, stating that those activities were not being consistently regulated.
Mr Henfield said while the government understands US officials have a duty to protect their citizens from potential harm, it still feels the advisories should be revisited going forward.
“We try to reiterate to Americans at all times that travel advisories, we think are, although electronically generated, are counterproductive to our tourism industry and are counter-productive to the amount of businesses that are American-owned businesses that operate in a touristic environment,” Mr Henfield told reporters yesterday.
“And, we also remind that we spend quite a lot of money in South Florida and so these advisories, we think, should be revisited. Prime Minister Minnis mentioned it when he was in Mar-a-Lago with President Trump last year.
“And we continue to agitate that these advisories should be revisited.”
The high-level meeting with Mr Pompeo, which had representatives from Jamaica, Belize, St Kitts, Haiti and many others, included discussions on shared democratic values and critical hemispheric matters.
Noting the meeting to be a productive one, Mr Henfield said officials spoke on various topics of concern.
“I thought it was a productive meeting and it demonstrates the commitment of the United States of America to the Caribbean and The Bahamas in particular,” he said.
“...I was able to share and thank (Mr Pompeo) on behalf of the Bahamian people for what they have been doing for us and for our recovery efforts.
“…We discussed security issues (and) traditional issues that we discuss as strategic partners and security, education and the issue of travel advisories and other things germane to CARICOM/US relations.”
Asked about the US secretary’s response to the travel advisory concerns, Mr Henfield replied: “He was conciliatory in his response. He understands that tourism is our main bread and butter in The Bahamas and anything that goes against bringing up the number we get in tourism does not jive well with us.”
Mr Henfield is not the only Cabinet minister to have raised concerns over US travel advisories for The Bahamas.
Last February, Tourism and Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar expressed dismay over the timing of a particular US alert, given that it coincided with the peak winter tourism season.
Mr D’Aguilar had previously said it was important for The Bahamas to periodically update entities like the US Embassy on the work being done to address the crime issue in the country.