Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation Responds to U.S. Travel Advisory

Nassau Bahamas
Nassau, Bahamas // Photo by Sharan Singh/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation has released a statement that it is aware of the recent update to the U.S. Travel Advisory for the Bahamas. The current U.S. State Department Travel Advisory is set at Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution (which is the same as many top European destinations, such as the U.K., France, Italy and Germany).

The State Department advisory reads, “Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.

“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault, is common, even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the family islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands. U.S. government personnel are not permitted to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime. Activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are not consistently regulated. Watercraft are often not maintained, and many companies do not have safety certifications to operate in The Bahamas. Jet-ski operators have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists.  As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.”

The Ministry of Tourism & Aviation pointed out that the advisory suggests using caution but does not actually urge delaying or cancelling travel plans. “We recommend that travelers to any destination maintain awareness of their surroundings and exercise basic precautions, as they likely would in their home cities and when not on holiday,” the statement reads.

The “vast majority” of the islands’ six million annual visitors enjoy their trips without any incident, the ministry says. According to Royal Bahamas Police data for 2018, there were only 43 incidents involving tourists, of which 30 involved U.S. visitors, and nearly all were minor offenses. The Ministry of Tourism also noted the progress police have made in significantly reducing serious crimes, such as murder (-25 percent), armed robbery (-18 percent), attempted robbery (-19 percent) and shoplifting (-23 percent).

Safety and security efforts include the use of CCTV in addition to a heightened police presence with foot, bicycle and motor patrols across all areas referenced in the advisory and tourist areas, including additional Beach Enforcement Officers that have been deployed to beaches frequented by visitors.

The Ministry of Tourism says it supports the required steps to address needed changes in regulation and enforcement of measures to ensure the safety of watercraft activities. The Port Department and, by extension, the Ministry of Transport and local government have sought to strengthen its laws governing vessels through the adoption of regional safety codes and requirements.

These efforts include joint and coordinated sea patrols by the Police Marine Unit, Defence Force Harbour Patrol Unit and the Port Department, and development of a citation and ticketing system for those not in compliance. 

“Safety and security on land and at sea is critically important for visitors and for the Bahamian people,” the Ministry of Tourism says. “Aggressive efforts are underway across all relevant Bahamian ministries and departments to ensure that our islands remain a destination that provides a welcoming environment where visitors enjoy our culture and our citizens enjoy economic opportunity.”

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