Ministry of Tourism officials have increased their damage control efforts in order to minimise the fallout to the country’s number one industry after the recent robbery of 18 cruise passengers in Nassau.
Tourism Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace said ministry staff are scouring internet websites to identify negative reports and counter them with positive messages about the Bahamas.
The ministry is also maintaining that although the recent incident was a horrifying ordeal, it was not a wider reflection on visitor experience in the country.
He added that local authorities have been meeting with officials from the cruise liners in an attempt to restore confidence in Nassau as a safe destination in the wake of the incident.
Shortly after noon on Friday, November 20, two thugs armed with shotguns held up two separate group of cruise passengers on an onshore eco-tour of BASH’s Earth Village in the Chippingham area.
Shortly after the attack, unflattering reports of the country and the incident spread like wildfire on the internet, with one of the victims posting a video on YouTube outlining his experience.
Mr Vanderpool-Wallace said: “We spent a great deal of time tracking where these stories are and what is being said and making sure we get the facts regarding the situation and what we are doing about it into that medium.”
He added that it is important that tourism employees pinpoint the negative press and ensure that the Ministry of Tourism injects a counter argument addressing the facts of the situation and future plans to address visitor safety in the Bahamas.
“This is one incident in one place and we want to make sure that we convey to the world that despite the numbers that we see in this one incident, that the number of crimes and attacks against visitors in the Bahamas is very, very low,” he said, speaking to The Tribune outside the Cabinet Office yesterday.
He added that tourism officials remain in ongoing meetings with police to strategise on ways to ensure the safety of visitors to the country’s shores.
The robbery came a little over a month after 11 cruise ship passengers on a taxi tour of the 66 Steps were held up by armed men and in the wake of a spate of armed robberies of locals.
Despite the rash of negative reports, Mr Vanderpool-Wallace sees the robbery as a minor obstacle in his ministry’s marketing efforts.
“I don’t see it as a roadblock, obviously it’s a speedbump in terms of some of the things that we want to accomplish but I am confident that from everything that I see with the police and the other departments that are involved in this they take it very seriously in moving aggressively to make sure that we restore the Bahamas’ good name everywhere,” he said.
It was around 12.15 pm when a group of cruise passengers were on a Segway tour of BASH’s Earth Village when two armed gunmen approached. The thugs tied up the Bahamian tour guide with the first group and ordered the passengers to the ground before robbing them of money, passports, cell phones, credit cards and personal items.
A second group of visitors approached and were also robbed at gunpoint.
Police said a Bahamian woman was gun-butted to the head during the attack, adding that no shots were fired.
This was refuted by many of the disgruntled victims, who claimed a shot had been fired into the ground by one of the thugs near one of the victims.
The passengers were part of two separate tour groups from Disney Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean.
Several cruise lines have suspended their tours at the site following the robbery however BASH’s Executive Director Terry Miller has plans to beef up security of the 170-acre property.