Brazen recent attacks on tourists have put an unwanted spotlight on crime in the Bahamian capital of Nassau — a problem perhaps exacerbated by the economic downturn in the islands but also one that threatens to make life even worse for local residents if visitors — and their vacation dollars — are scared off.
In the most recent incident, a group of 18 Royal Caribbean Navigator passengers on a Segway tour of the Bahamas Association of Social Health’s Earth Village (a 162-acre nature preserve) were robbed by a pair of men toting a shotgun on Nov. 18. One attacker fired a shotgun blast and assaulted members of the group while robbing them, while another stood watch with a handgun.
On the same day, a group of Disney Cruise Line passengers also were robbed in the same area.
The Segway tour was cancelled by the cruise lines in the aftermath of the attacks.
In October, a group of 11 Carnival Cruise Lines passengers were robbed near the Queen’s Staircase, one of the most popular and prominent tourist attractions in Nassau.
Armed robberies are up 17 percent in Nassau this year, and the murder rate also is up 10 percent. So far, no cruise lines have dropped Nassau — one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean — but it remains to be seen whether cruise passengers simply vote with their feet and decide to remain onboard, rather than venturing out to explore Nassau at the risk of their personal safety.
Bahamas tourism officials at least seem to recognize the magnitude of the problem. “Do you think tourists would be attracted to a country that would put a threat on their lives?” said junior minister of tourism Lincoln Deal, who added: “The Bahamas does not have an invincible tourism industry where we could have a ‘wild wild west’ downtown one day, and tourism arrivals would reach its peak another day. Tourism is a continuously growing industry that demands the help of each and every individual. When you attack a tourist. You attack yourself. When you rob a tourist, your rob yourself.”