Business trickles downtown as tourism falls off

Bay Street was a ghost town yesterday as Nassau began to feel the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Typically bustling streets were nearly empty and many stores were shuttered.

A man playing the steel pan drums performed on Prince George Wharf without an audience, with few passersby to drop coins in his bin.

Festival Place was barren and many straw market vendors didn’t even show up to open their stalls.

However, an American couple, who was standing in Rawson Square about to embark on a food tour, said they have been enjoying the island.

“It’s pretty empty,” said Brett Hammann, who is visiting from Missouri in the U.S.

“Our plane from Fort Lauderdale, there were only like 30 people on it. So, that was pretty shocking.”

He added, “It is a little eery. We don’t have to wait in line for a restaurant or anything so that’s been nice.

“…But it has been a little weird because you know usually places like this are hustle and bustle and there’s lots of people and stuff. So it’s been a little weird. Especially over there with the cruise ship and stuff it’s weird seeing everything empty.”

Hammann, who said he is planning to return to the U.S. later this week, said they decided to visit since tickets were cheap and there weren’t any cases in The Bahamas at the time.

“We found some cheap flights and said why not?” he said.

“So, here we are.”

He added, “At the time when we decided, it wasn’t too bad. And there wasn’t a whole lot going on with it down here.

“…We had more cases where we lived than what’s going on down here, so we decided, why not?”

The couple’s tour guide, Lisa Whitney, said she’s concerned about the potential economic impact of COVID-19.

“Absolutely,” she said.

“…I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be [concerned].”

She added, “I have three kids and a husband who depend on me. So, I’m nervous. I’m a little bit worried about it.”

Whitney added, “Coming into downtown seeing it sort of empty…you know that is strange.

“You should not have that much room on the sidewalks.”

Randy Deveaux sat in his Junkanoo costume, drum on his lap, on the corner of Frederick Street. He has been making his living performing downtown for the past 18 years.

“Downtown is very empty,” he said.

“…Most of the shops are not open. They’re closing now. The straw market, some of the stuff are covered up. But we’ve still got people out here trying to make an honest living.”

He added, “Everything is really quiet.”

Deveaux said the only other time he’s seen the streets so quiet was before and after hurricanes.

“I just hope that things change,” he said.

“…No sense worrying. I thank God for life. Every day I can get up, I can always say thank you God because I’m still here.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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