Some tour boat operators say decision to keep industry closed is ‘nonsensical’
After being forced shut for over three months, boat tour and watersports operators were up in arms yesterday and questioned the government’s rationale behind keeping their businesses inoperable until July 13, despite the opening of the country’s borders on Wednesday.
Keiran Miller, owner of Staniel Cay Adventures, called the prime minister’s decision “nonsensical” and asked what was the rationale, particularly for islands like Exuma and Staniel Cay, where there have been no confirmed cases.
“I think there’s still a disconnect there as far as understanding his approach and rationale in making this decision,” Miller said. “From where I’m standing, it just seems nonsensical, quite frankly.
“The people are going to be here in any event. They’re already going to be interacting with folks at the resorts, Airbnbs or wherever they’re staying, at restaurants, etc. I don’t understand how a particular sector is allowed to operate when we [boat tour operators] have guidelines in place for social distancing and sanitization, but aren’t allowed to. It’s just not adding up to me.”
During his national address on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that excursions and tours will not be allowed to operate until July 13.
While jet ski operators and vendors won’t be able to resume business until July 27.
Miller’s company allows visitors and locals opportunities to go swimming with pigs, sharks and boating tours around the Exuma chain of islands.
Edward Fitzgerald, 23, co-owner of Piece of 8 Charter, has a similar business that’s been around for two years and operates from New Providence.
He said given the fact that boaters and yachters have been allowed to enter the country and explore Bahamian waters since June 15, this latest measure handed down by the government appears discriminatory.
“This is the most blatant example of Bahamians being treated as second class citizens in their own country,” Fitzgerald said.
“As a local Bahamian operator, I’m disappointed. No tourist is coming here just to sit in a hotel. They want to come out, they want to experience the natural beauty and they need people like us to make that happen.”
According to Fitzgerald, being closed for just over three months has pushed the company back two years, financially.
He said the upcoming 4th of July weekend was scheduled to be a busy one for many local tour operators with visitors eager to experience a getaway amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had people booked for July 4th,” Fitzgerald said. “But according to the prime minister, we can’t even take those people out. They’ve already booked. Those are people staying at Atlantis. But now that government has made that statement, what do we do?”
Both boat tour operators said while they applaud the government’s efforts to open the country cautiously, some of the decisions and restrictions need more explanation.
“We just would like to know what pushed them [government] in the direction to make this decision,” Miller said. “Just a little more information, some details or just allow us to operate. We have the guidelines already. We’re ready to get back to work.”