By LEANDRA ROLLE
TOURISM, Investments and Aviation Minister Chester Cooper said the country must do everything possible to control the crime situation because it is not only bad for the Bahamas, but also for its tourism product.
“Any crime in the Bahamas is bad for the Bahamas. It’s bad for tourism and we have to do everything we can as Bahamians to handle this problem,” the Deputy Prime Minister said before attending the meeting of the Yesterday’s office.
“If we see something, we say something and, of course, we find a way to work out our grievances and our differences in a harmonious way.”
He was responding to calls from tourism leaders for more to be done to quell the country’s growing crime rate.
On Friday, Robert Sands, president of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association, warned that the rise in crime, if “unmitigated”, threatened to negatively affect our country’s leading industry and society. country.
Noting that tourism is the main source of income for the Bahamas, Mr. Cooper recognized visitor safety as a key concern.
He also said it was mind-boggling that anyone would seek to kill or harm “the golden goose” and further called such acts “a stupid thing to do”.
“A crime against Bahamians is horrible. A crime against tourists is just a stupid thing to do,” he said. “The effect (of) what we would do would be to bite off the hands that feed us. I said during the budget debate that 60 cents of every dollar we receive comes from tourism.
“We depend on tourism for our very way of life. We have maintained a high quality standard of living and therefore it is mind boggling for anyone to seek to kill the golden goose or hurt the golden goose.
“So, I call on Bahamians everywhere to assist the police and assist the Department of National Security in terms of managing, reducing and reporting criminal elements in our community.”
Last Wednesday, the US State Department updated its travel advisory for the Bahamas to include new health information.
The advisory maintains its Number Two Level Safety Alert for Americans in the Bahamas, which advises residents to exercise increased caution amid crime fueled by gang warfare and retaliatory killings.
The US advisory also reiterates concerns about the unregulated water sports industry in the Bahamas.
Despite these continued travel warnings, Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis said Monday he doesn’t believe the country’s crime rate will affect the country’s tourism product.
For his part, Mr. Cooper said he was pleased that the overall U.S. travel advisory for the Bahamas remained the same as in recent months.
“I am confident, however, that with respect to the travel advisory itself, it does not heighten the alarm so to speak for travelers to the Bahamas,” he said.
“I would say one more thing. The Bahamas tourism product promotes 16 island destinations within one Bahamas destination. Although this level two has been in place for some time and has not been scaled up, it only refers to New Providence and (Grand Bahama). ”
“We have 14 other destinations and if they had been rated differently I imagine all the others would be level one or even not rated at all so the fact is there are criminal elements in the pockets of our community , but we have 16 island destinations and that’s what we send out to the world as the message of what we have to offer.
The Bahamas has recorded 107 murders so far for the year, according to this newspaper’s records.
However, if current crime trends continue, the country will surpass last year’s homicide count of 119.