As tourism picks up and cruise lines begin to return this weekend, straw vendors still have no idea when they will be able to return to work, one vendor Terez Eneas told Guardian Business yesterday, adding that vendors are depressed and feel like they have been forgotten by government.
“We have a cruise ship that sailed into The Bahamas today that is home porting, so you know what that means from what my understanding is, we have tourists coming into The Bahamas from today, we have the workers on the cruise ship coming into The Bahamas today, who knows if they don’t want to buy a shirt or something to take when they go to another port?” Eneas said.
“We don’t know if they came with intentions of stopping to the straw market before they go on the ship, we don’t know that. No provision has been made for us.”
The straw vendors have now been away from their primary source of income for a year and a quarter, making them one of the only business sectors to be shut so long since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect The Bahamas.
Eneas said it seems the government expects all of the vendors to be vaccinated before allowing the straw market to open, but she explained that some vendors are hesitant to take the vaccine.
She also said the government seems to be making no move to find out which vendors have been vaccinated in an effort to begin to get them back to work.
“I didn’t have a problem with the vaccine, but some of the vendors do,” she said.
“I’m trying my best to encourage the vendors to take the vaccine because it plays a very, very pivotal role in the opening of the straw market. That’s how I personally feel.
“And so we don’t need no cases, we don’t need no drama once we are open, so that’s my advice to vendors every day, to please take the vaccine. The vaccine that we are taking is a very, very good vaccine.”
She said the Straw Market Authority needs to call a meeting to outline the plan to get the vendors back to work and to find out who has been vaccinated.
“It doesn’t look like the Straw Market Authority is making any preparations for the straw vendors. I don’t know within the government itself,” Eneas said.
Calls to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, who has oversight of the straw market, were not returned over the past several days.
Eneas is afraid that if the competent authority calls the vendors back to work on a whim, nothing will be in place for them to restart business.
“Nothing is in place for us. We are at home looking up at the ceiling and keeping our houses clean, that’s all we are doing,” she said.