In a moment of breathtaking ignorance, an important Bahamas official has recommended charging cruisers to anchor anywhere in the Bahamas because "they don’t even spend $5 in the Bahamas and what do they eat? Our fish."
The official is Eric Carey, chairman Bahamas National Trust. He was quoted in the Bahamas Tribune newspaper. Online response to the article, once its contents were circulated in U.S. cruising circles, was vehemently critical.
As you can see from the dinghies lined three deep at the Exuma Market dock in George Town, some cruisers are spending money, a lot of it. They make withdrawals from the Scotia Bank, they buy groceries at the market, use the coin-operated laundromat, buy beer, wine and booze, dine at the Chat & Chill and get parts from the NAPA store.
Here's more of what Carey was quoted as saying:
“We need to think about doing these sorts of initiatives in other areas like Elizabeth Harbour off of Black Point, Staniel Cay and Nassau Harbour,” he said. “They come down there they anchor and they pay absolutely nothing and they come fully stocked. Half of the time they don’t even spend $5 in the Bahamas and what do they eat? Our fish...
"Thousands of boats come in and lay up in Elizabeth Harbour, everyone of them should be picking up a mooring for which they should pay and if they don’t want to pay then they should go somewhere else. We have water quality issues and anchor damage in Elizabeth Harbour."
Here's the response on the Bahamanian newspaper's website, beginning with Osborn, two days ago:
He is grossly misinformed about spending by cruisers visiting the bahamas. We spend several months there each winter and spend plenty. We eat out several times a week and would do so more often if there were more places to do so. We also buy plenty, if not all of our groceries, especially perishables. We also pay the $300 entry fee and rent moorings in the park several times each season.
Sure, there are some who don't pay anything but to implement these fees will surely drive away cruisers, you can take that to the bank.
We're already been driven away. After wintering in the Bahamas the last four seasons and spending over $26,000 in marina fees, restaurants, and groceries (nine dollars for gallon of milk gets oold), we cut back spending after the entry fee went up. Now they've added the 9% VAT on top starting this year, so we'll just cut back entirely. Bye-bye Bahamas.
I am frankly surprised that the trustees of the Bahamian National Trust would permit the unsubstantiated bombast of the chairman Eric Carey to stand unchallenged. His comment
....“They come down there they anchor and they pay absolutely nothing and they come fully stocked. Half of the time they don’t even spend $5 in the Bahamas and what do they eat? Our fish,”....
is unsubstantiated and irresponsible. I am a regular visitor to the Bahamas and in addition to the $300 entry fee, I spend thousands of dollars annually on fuel, food and services. To imply that boaters are opportunistic free loaders who do nothing to contribute to the local economy is untrue and inflammatory. Adopting a stance of "pay or go elsewhere" is short sighted and will harm local businesses as many people will actually chose to go elsewhere.
While a dialogue on how to protect the natural beauty of the Bahamas is long over due, to single out boaters as the sole source of environmental stress is naive. Instead of engaging the cruising community as a partner and a resource, Mr. Carey seems to view visitors on boats as a troublesome burden who should be exploited at will.
Eric Carey has done the Bahamas National Trust a disservice with his ham fisted undiplomatic remarks and he should be sanctioned by his trustees for alienating visitors and potential visitors to the Bahamas.
Well the first thing you have to do is put in in the context. We were talking agt the conference about the many problems being caused by anchor damage in many popular moorings. It was following a point I made about our new anchorage fees in the Exuma Park.
Local residents from Exuma were also offering the opinion that the quality of the habitat and the water quality in Elizabeth Harbour is also being negatively impacted by the hundreds(?) of boats that anchor there in the winter months. I did encourage them to follow the example of what we have done in the Exuma Park, and consider putting in more mooring balls and charging boaters to use them as a way of protecting our resource, and also earning money to help the local Elizabeth Harbour NGO in their efforts to clean up and restore the area.
There were comments that many of boaters are too "Cheap" and will not want to pay. I agreed that MANY of the boaters who come to the Bahamas indeed offer very little to the bahamian economy. I did state that MANY of them do spend very little as they come fully provisioned for the winter and indeed eat much of what they catch from our oceans. Social media and the many blogs give us access information we never had before. I'm always intrigued by how many fresh seafood dinners and lunches, conch salads etc are enjoyed by your boating colleagues. Most of it is of course quite legal, but I'd love to see a study that shows what this really valued at.
I would be anxious to hear your data on how much is contributed by the average boater who does not use marinas or purchase fuel, to the economy. This is a figure that will be very useful to quantify as I can tell with full confidence, that the general view prevails that many of these types of boaters get more out the Bahamas than they put back. If anyone has data to counter this this would be useful.
I'm well aware that there are many many responsible boaters who love our country and who do want to contributesignificantly and help us protect our resources so that THEY can continue to enjoy them. But there are bad apples as well. We encounter them all over the Bahamas.
Everytime the Bahamas seeks to implement any policy or increase that will cause boaters to pay more there are these threats to abandon the destination. And yes we lose some everytime. But I will never apologise for any intiative we implement that seeks to help protect our resources. For the "el cheapo smoochers" who don't want to pay anything, we always expect the backlash. But for those who love the Bahamas and understand how much it cost to keep it beautiful, and to keep fish in our oceans, they do get the picture and will be less resistant to these necessary iniatives.
Those who get pissed of and leave vowing never to come back, I'm not sure we should, as a country, worry too much about this "loss".
Careful Eric, you are sounding like more like a typical Government xenophobic hack than an ambassador for the part of the environment that the National trust is Guardian of. No matter the barrel you look in, Government, Trust, Private sector, Church, There are bad apples. Seems to me the Trust has "co-opted" the Government methods of Revenue collection, by force, with ever expanding power, greed and need. Remember this: Those who nickel and dime a situation to death, end up with nickels and dimes.
What you do not understand Mr. Carey is that your comments are insulting and disrespectful to all boaters who cruise your waters.
Cruising sailors are the ultimate Eco-tourists. We use almost no fuel, are powered by wind and sun and are extremely conscientious of our environmental impact. We minimize our waste, recycle everything we can, protect reefs, and fish only what we would consume ourselves. Shouldn't that lifestyle be encouraged? Shouldn't someone who supposedly loves the environment partner with them rather than reject them?
When we cruised the Bahamas we spent thousands above the entry fee for marinas, restaurants, grocers, local services, and various tourist activities. Now you want us to accept your insults AND pay more? No thank you. Some of our good friends and fellow-cruisers who can't afford to spend much more than your exorbitant entry-fees have donated much-needed school supplies and regularly volunteer their time at Bahamian charitable events and beach clean-ups. By your statements, they are not welcome in your country and you categorize them as "El Cheapo Smoochers." That sir is a disgusting insight into your character.
I too am surprised that BNT supports such inflammatory, offensive statements that clearly indicate only the wealthy are welcome to visit the Bahamas. I realize you could care less, but I know our money will be much better spent and welcomed elsewhere.
As someone who has sailed the Bahamas, spending thousands of dollars doing so, I find these comments not only insulting but also ignorant. I expect that with a little digging, we'd find the BNT is not able to manage its budget properly and rather than take responsibility, points a blaming finger at cruisers. Fees will probably become more expensive and wider spread, fewer cruisers (like me) will spend time in Bahamian waters, and the BNT will still end up struggling with less cruising dollars making it into supporting local communities and businesses spread throughout the islands. What a shame.
Mr. Carey has such disdain for the hand that feeds him. Lashing out in such an angry and adversarial way toward those that fill ones coffers is not wise. I understand it must be difficult to depend so heavily on those for whom you have such disdain, but learn to hide it better sir.
I HAD been planning on spending my first year of retirement next season cruising the Bahamas. I had been led to believe it was a warm and welcoming country. However, after reading Mr. Carey's words, maybe a straight-shot to the Virgin Islands is in order? Mr. Carey needs to realize that every island in the Caribbean competes for cruisers' dollars, actively or passively, and the first thing he needs to accept is that we don't have to go to the Bahamas. It's convenient, but it's a destination that can easily be passed over, especially by the larger yachts that typically have more money to spend. Such derogatory and unwelcoming comments on his part does his nation no good, and it harms the small businesses that benefit from cruisers.
The Bahamas are under no obligation to welcome outside sailors or their money (so stop acting like you are supposed to be welcomed somewhere); however, if the government continues to collect more fees, it is at the expense of the Bahamian people who own the businesses where the money would go otherwise. Of course, this looks a lot like the rest of the marine industry where those with the megayachts (aka cash cows) are more than welcome and us regular people with limited budgets are not.
"everyone of them should be picking up a mooring for which they should pay and if they don’t want to pay then they should go somewhere else"
Be careful what you wish for smart guy: you just might get it.
Also, "smoochers" would be kissing people. i think you mean "moochers". If you're going to insult me, at least do it properly.
Mr. Carey - google my name, Wally Moran, along with the word sailing. Now, tell me you want me discussing your willingness to drive cruisers away from your islands with more fees. Tell me you want me discussing your dismissive attitude towards tourists who travel on boats. Do you have any idea how large my personal audience is, and just in North America? Your islands survive on tourism. Your attitude is to drive us away. Is that an intelligent way to help your country? I think not. My personal plans for this coming winter were to sail through the Bahamas on my way to Cuba, spending a considerable amount of time, and money, while there. I also planned on producing a video extolling the beauties of cruising in the Bahamas, something to promote your country. YOUR attitude, Sir, means that I will go directly to Cuba, and leave you with nothing. Is that what you want? Just how stupid do you think we cruisers are? If you don't want us, we'll gladly go elsewhere, and to hell with you. This is not what I want. I happen to love your islands, I'll miss going there, but if your attitude prevails, there are other places I can go - and WILL go. Perhaps you have forgotten, boats are mobile. We can go where we are welcomed. You need to rethink your attitude, before we rethink it for you.
What an insulting little pompous ass. Im with you Wally, straight to Cuba, at least they are warm and welcoming, even if they do want the same thing, our money. But hey, thats why we're there for, to spend money. Might not be the thousands the big boys throw around, but it will be appreciated.
To all boaters:Firstly, Eric is not an Ambassador to the Bahamas, nor does he speak for all Bahamians. Secondly, Mr. Carey is well known for putting his foot in his mouth. His dictatorship-like attitude does not bode well for the Trust. This man has shown himself to be an arrogant individual who likes to assert himself as being in charge of everything. Trust me. I am a Bahamian who follows events that have been attended by Eric. I can safely say that all boaters should take whatever he says as a grain of salt. Carey needs to realize that he is not speaking to one of his employees who he tend to look down on. He is speaking to guests of our country. With that said, there is nothing wrong with discussing pertinent issues that about national parks, under BNT watch. It is how one presents this discussion across to stakeholders that matters!
I guess the thousands I've spent over there on supplies, local contractors, and supporting the local establishments don't offset the value of a few fish. Very nice Mr. Carey!
I've been to the national park, and very much enjoyed myself there.
However, I anchored out in a vast area with nearly no boats. The mooring balls were full.
In areas with safe, effective mooring balls, there are always those who will gladly pay for them. If there are viable alternatives (such as the area we were anchored in), I see nothing wrong with mooring balls.
However, the approach isn't one designed to win friends among the cruising community. There are now many moorings in Elizabeth Harbour - but none of them are rated for anything most folks using a mooring are interested in - protection from a blow which would threaten an anchored boat.
Put in all the moorings you want, but don't limit the ability to anchor out. You'll find takers if they are reasonably priced, safe and secure. If you make it such that the only ones who can come and spend their money in your area are those who can ALSO afford a mooring ball you will limit the number who can come by more than just the number of balls installed - which in itself is self-limiting.
I know of many cruisers who are effective fishermen - but they STILL participate in shoreside spending.
Most of the cruisers do not fish at all, and some of the rest are only the most occasional fisherfolk. As one on a very limited budget (requiring, now that relatives have stripped my retirement funds, with no visible prospect of repayment, working some months of the year - in the US, as I'm not allowed to contribute to your economy other than to pay people for goods and services there), I still get all my food, gasoline and diesel fuel, propane, repair parts, services etc., there, purchased from your businesses, while in your wonderful waters. I believe I represent the bulk of cruisers to your country.
When I learned of the proposed increase in entry fees, I actively considered passing by. Now that it has been reversed, I was still planning on coming next year (we do our visiting in the warmer months, unlike most other cruisers). But I can tell you categorically that we cannot afford mooring fees, whether daily, monthly, or multi-month discounted rates. We would have to give it a pass.
Likewise, we are not alone, and, I believe, represent a significant portion of the cruising community in financial terms.
l eagerly await movement on this subject, as it is a critical step in the decision of whether to continue to support the Bahamian economy...
With the $1M donated by the Aga Khan for Mr. Carey to look the other way while illegal dredging took place under his watch, Mr. Carey can afford to be pompous toward the "smoochers". http://www.bahamasnational.com/?q=node/1715
I wonder if someone at the Tribune would reach out to the Ministry of Tourism to comment? I am sure they could get a response more quickly than the rest of us.