Jet ski operators fear bleak future for industry

While the tourism industry has already begun its phased reopening after a nearly six-month closure, jet ski operators are not confident that business will be the same when they’re allowed to operate again.

“I know I won’t be putting my all into it anymore,” said Reno Deveaux Jr., who owns Reno Watersports.

“Once the beach opens up, that’s going to be secondary for me. The industry itself is already seasonal. Putting a lot of money into it and the number of COVID-19 cases may rise again, we may have to shut down. It’s really risky.”

Vice President of the Jet Ski Operators Association Pedro Bannister, who operates a jet ski and beach rentals business, said despite the financial loss the pandemic has brought about, life must continue.

“It has been hard, but God has been providing,” Bannister said.

“We just have to thug it out. We rolling with the punches.”

Bannister, who operated from Goodman’s Bay Beach, said one of his main concerns is the maintenance of the vessels.

“We have a number of new jet skis and if they sit up too long, they will seize up,” he said.

“I really want to know if the prime minister would allow the guys to go on the water once or twice a week to keep everything running. Once something is sitting up for so long, you start to have problems. That’s money we don’t have that we may have to invest in new or old jet skis.”

Although the business has been halted for a long period, the association is looking at a possible solution.

“We wanted to put a system together, so that we could rent the jet skis to locals,” Bannister said.

“We still have a lot of people out there and even family members coming in from the US who want to ride jet skis. At least we would be able to come home with something in our pockets. With no tourists coming in, it’s hard.”

Deveaux also said when activities resume, jet ski operators may have to do so on a part-time basis.

“I feel like when we do reopen, a lot of people will not put their 100 percent focus into it anymore because this pandemic has shown us anything could happen,” he said.

While he was faced with some struggles during this time, Deveaux said he found other ways to survive because he knew that the tourism industry suffered a huge loss.

“I started ordering clothes to sell,” he said.

“I had to adjust to the change because it was actually no income at all. It seemed like the beach was never going to open, so I had no other option. It still looks like we aren’t sure what’s happening.”

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar said on Monday that the country is already in phase two of its four-phase plan.

Phase three is expected to begin on October 15 and will include the opening of major hotels, full beach access on all islands and water taxis being allowed to operate.

Despite no income from his business, Deveaux also noted that the pandemic has revealed that his passion for his job goes beyond the pay.

“The money aspect is just one thing,” Deveaux said.

“Everyone just misses the beach and the togetherness and seeing the different cultures. That’s what makes our job interesting.”

Shaquille Johnson, who also operates jet skis from Goodman’s Bay, said the COVID-19 pandemic has completely turned his life into a daily struggle with little to no income.

“It’s really hard,” Johnson said.

“It’s no work. It’s nothing to do. Every day, I go and sit on a log by the beach.”

He said with the COVID-19 cases rising, the tourism industry does not look promising.

“The cruise ships aren’t coming in right now and there are no hotel guests; we’ll just be hanging around,” Johnson said.

“The beach is open, but it’s still no work. If the hotels open up, we may see something.”

Johnson, who said he was locked up two months for breaking curfew, also noted that he is running out of options when it comes to making ends meet.

“I’m lost right now,” he said.

“I am so lost. If we strike for them to allow us to operate, the jet skis will just be parked up there with no work. We wouldn’t be able to make anything. I don’t think people are taking a vacation right now because of the virus. It’s really hard.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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