The Straw Market on Bay Street.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
STRAW vendors are calling for the government to push back the Straw Market’s re-opening date until the cruise ship industry resumes in September.
A spokeswoman for the vendors said they do not feel they will have a strong customer base if operations resume this month given that the bulk of their customers are cruise visitors. This comes after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced on Sunday that straw vendors and Jet Ski operators will be able to return to work on July 27.
However, president of the Straw Businesspeople Society, Reverend Esther Thompson criticised the decision yesterday, saying vendors want the downtown facility’s re-opening dates to fall in line with the cruise industry’s re-opening.
She said: “What we want is for (the market to reopen) at least a week before the boat return. This is the proposal I put to them. A week before the boat returns, they could open the market. Because who are we going to sell to?
“If they open the market, who are we going to sell to? We want it in line with the cruise ships. Our position is the cruise ship is our clientele, major clientele. At least about 95 percent of our business come from the cruise ships.
“So, if the cruise ships isn’t coming, our thing is who are we going to sell to when we re-open on the 27th?”
In March, the government closed the country’s borders to all incoming commercial travellers, including Bahamians, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Minnis administration has since begun a phased re-opening of the tourism industry, with commercial international travel set to resume on July 1.
However, with the cruise industry not expected to re-open until September, Rev Thompson said vendors do not feel confident they will able to attract a large customer base to fulfil their financial obligations.
“Even though the country opening, you know that doesn’t mean the tourists are gone be here. Most of our business come from cruise ships and no cruise ship is coming in until September,” she told The Tribune yesterday.
“And the vendors feel like once you go (to the Straw Market), they ready for you to pay rent. You see the vendors, where are they going to get this money from to pay the rent?
“…The vendors them are really in a bad, bad financial state. They don’t see their financial state bettering by going to work on the 27th because who they gone sell to?”
Claiming vendors were “blindsided’ by the prime minister’s recent announcements, Rev Thompson said they were hoping to meet with officials to discuss their concerns.
“We were blindsided and I was blindsided by the prime minister’s announcements. We were looking to meet with them to iron out the differences,” she added.
“We were not consulted on that date. That is the prime minister’s date or the government’s date that they ordered for vendors, but I don’t think they take into consideration our condition. Ain’t nobody talk to us where we are in it. The government is just placing their demands on the people without getting in the trenches to understand.”