By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The 30-day cruise industry shutdown means that industries reliant upon it have "never been this close to annihilation", the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union's (BTCU) chief is arguing.
Wesley Ferguson said of the end to all cruises from the US, in response to the coronovirus pandemic: "That is devastating. The taxi drivers are heavily dependent on the cruise sector, but I would prefer the ships to leave than to have a cadre of sick taxi drivers.
"The 30 days is just a 'ball park' figure of what they expect, and it may not be 30 days. I am concerned for the taxi drivers, but I would rather them be healthy and broke than to be making money sick."
Mr Ferguson said he was "hoping" that some of his union members and other taxi drivers were "wise enough" to save money to get them through any economic downturn. He added: "This is supposed to be the peak season for the taxi drivers during Mach, April and May because you have Spring Break.
"In spite of Dorian, we were hoping for a real robust peak season due to more people coming to Nassau. Due to the coronavirus we are just getting by. One of our main contracts is the shuttle system from the Festival Place and the various cruise ships, so that is something we lost right away. With no cruise ships there is no reason to be there, and that has hugely diminished our revenue."
Voicing fears that airlift to The Bahamas could go the way of the cruise industry, he added: "How long do we know if the airplanes are about to fly? Because the speculation we hear out there is that it is a matter of time before they cancel the air flights. I am suspecting in a week or so the planes are going to stop flying. Right now, it's panic time.
"We have never been this close to annihilation. We experienced something like this during the Gulf War, and the second time was in 9/11. This is definitely worse than those, and we have yet to feel the full effects of this coronavirus. With the Gulf War, once that was done they were able to gather up their travellers and say that the war was in the Middle East and you can still come to The Bahamas.
Mr Ferguson continued: "They had said during the Gulf War that 65 percent of Americans stopped travelling, and of the 35 percent that travelled, 22 percent of that travelled to The Bahamas. Even though it was very slow, we still got the lion's share of those who travelled outside of the United States. With a disease, you are travelling from a country where the disease is prevalent to a country where the disease is present as well."
Mr Ferguson also expressed concerns about the "catastrophic effects" of The Bahamas' three main economic drivers being shut down. With Abaco and Freeport still recovering from Dorian, he said the country was now "dead in the water" due to COVID-19's impact on Nassau.
"I don't think we have seen the brunt of this outbreak yet," he warned. "There is no antidote and there is no cure for this. So the world authorities are saying they want to contain this in one spot, but I am very concerned for the taxi drivers because they are right in the forefront since they are the first people the tourists will come into contact with it."