Sun, Sand and Sexual Assault
For more than 40 years, the Bahamas has been praised as a world class destination; internationally famous for its Sun, Sand, Sea and all the water sports that accompany those elements. Unfortunately, that sector of the tourism industry – left unregulated for too long – now threatens the tourism golden goose.
In years past, fatal accidents involving tourists on water vessels drew the ire of the international community and prompted calls both locally and abroad for the industry to be better regulated, and safety laws enforced. According to recent reports however, tourists – particularly women – face a new level of danger, this time from sexual predators.
Just this week, The US Embassy issued its latest security warning for its citizens visiting the Bahamas. In it the warning lists 5 separate instances of alleged sexual assault on the part of jet-ski operators operating on Cabbage Beach as well as Cable Beach. Compelled by the frequency of the alleged attacks the Embassy has forbidden its personnel from patronizing those entities and has encouraged all its citizens to follow suit. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the targeting of ANY woman be condoned, or ignored. Sadly, having failed to deliver on its promise of a Gender Equality Bill more than a decade in the making, is it any wonder that this Christie led administration has continued to ignore such warnings to the detriment of our tourism product?
The level of inaction displayed by successive government administrations on this issue is a scathing indictment of the country’s leaders who have ignored, and thereby allowed a potentially dangerous decision to develop. At a time when employment opportunities are few and far between and over taxation threatens the viability of many small businesses I imagine that none of these entities can afford to lose patrons or its portion of a 145 billion dollar industry; yet little has been done to address these long standing concerns.
Since the release of the Embassy’s warning, the government has attempted to clarify the details surrounding the incident. In a statement, Transport and Aviation Minister Glenys Hanna Martin insists that the perpetrator was not a jet-ski operator as reports have suggested. Her comments, outside of promising a meeting with industry stakeholders, offered no real comfort and no real plan of action on the way forward particularly as it relates to greater regulation of the sector.
The benefits of a properly regulated watersports industry cannot be overstated. Not only does this protect the reputation of the country and keep guests safe but it also legitimizes the industry and creates even more viable entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians.
Now more than ever, the Bahamas’ Watersports Industry is in need of real, effective regulation. The Democratic National Alliance, as part of its plan to protect, strengthen and grow the country’s tourism product proposes the establishment of a regulatory body that would not only oversee the safe use of various watercraft, but would also be responsible for issuing licenses to operators and ensuring that all member operators meet and keep a set of pre-established industry standards. Through this regulating body, operators in the industry would be provided with safety training and education as well as license recertification – which would hinge, in part, on the successful inspection and registration of all watercraft.
The DNA also proposes ongoing training and vetting of all member operators to ensure that persons of character are being attracted to the industry. Add to that wide scale ENFORCEMENT of the laws currently governing the industry and we have the potential to capitalize on a massive and ever growing industry. This will require that we as a people do what is necessary, and that our leadership demonstrate the political will to do just that!