Straw vendors lament that they’ve been left out

President of the Straw Business Persons Society Rev. Esther Thompson said yesterday that vendors are unhappy that no plan was outlined for the resumption of business for the Nassau Straw Market during the Ministry of Tourism’s recent tourism recovery update.

The Ministry of Tourism announced earlier this week that the sector would move to phase three of its reopening plan on October 15, when there would be full beach access on all islands, the opening of major hotels and access to all property amenities and the resumption of water taxis.

And while the ministry announced that tourist attractions as well as tours and excursions would be allowed to resume operations on November 1, it left vendors, jet ski operators, casinos, cruises and ferries in phase four with a “to be determined” opening date.

“What would be welcomed news for us is when the visitors will be in the position to visit the market. Even though they plan on opening it, it doesn’t seem that it’s an opening that would be an economic benefit for us right now. So, I don’t see how much joy that can bring us,” Thompson told Guardian Business yesterday.

“Well that shows you they don’t have us in mind. I don’t feel like they have the small man in mind. We’re not a part of their structure when it comes to the country and the economic benefit. We just aren’t there with them, that’s how I feel. When it comes to straw vendors, we’re just not there with the authorities, they have no interest in us and what happens. But I feel like the country benefits from what we do. I feel like they should pay more interest in the straw vendors and the country. If they take interest in that straw market and the straw vendors the country would benefit greatly. To me that’s our only Bahamian-owned tourism product,” added Thompson.

The lifelong straw vendor said this period of lockdowns has been one of the most damaging to her community ever. She said she’s hoping the Ministry of Tourism and straw vendors are able to petition hotel properties to allow vendors to sell their wares on hotel properties.

“That would be a welcoming idea for vendors,” she said.

“It has not been good for the vendors because whatever little assistance they are getting, it can cover their food probably, but they still have their bills that are not going to go away. Nobody wants to address that. So I can never say it’s okay. Plus, with NIB there’s a problem. We still have vendors that haven’t gotten a dollar from NIB.”

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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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