After calling for an islandwide anchoring fee and essentially calling U.S. and Canadian cruisers a bunch of freeloaders, Bahamas National Trust Chairman Eric Carey has walked backed his comments, even apologized. Here is his exchange yesterday with Bob Osborn of S/V Pandora.
Osborn wrote this to Carey:
Mr Carey, good morning. I am writing you with regards to your recent comments regarding the imposition of a mooring fee plan in some areas of the Exumas. You noted that visiting boaters are not spending beyond the $300 entrance fee which I believe is incorrect.
My wife and I have visited the bahamas for two winters now and spent at least $2,000 per month on food and dining while we were visiting your country. As a specific example, last year we purchased a new 15 hp outboard motor in Georgetown from Minns Water Sports. Yes, there are certainly those who just anchor out for months at a time and spend nothing, but I know many cruisers who spend as much or more than we do.
The largest problem we face to spending more than we do is a lack of options for food and dining in the Exumas. I realize that this is a complicated issue, but if there were more shopping and dining options in settlements such as Black Point and Staniel Cay, we'd happily spend more. Perhaps the only reason that we'd avoid visiting the Bahamas in the future would be because of a lack of services.
If you were to impose the anchoring restrictions or fees that you are proposing, I believe that you would likely hurt the currently small number of business that there are in these areas such as Loraine's laundry and Scorpio's, just two that come to mind, in Black Point. Historically, user fees tend to reduce spending overall and only produce modest incremental funds directly related to any "use tax".
Please be very careful about making the move you are suggesting as I fear that you may hurt your own citizens, the very people that you wish to help.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you directly as the Bahamas are a special place for me and I'd very much like to see try your country prosper.
I have written extensively on my blog about our visits to your country for two years now and hope to visit the Bahamas again this coming winter.
Bob Osborn, S/V Pandora
This is Mr. Carey's response after a few back and forth messages.
After reflecting on my statement I have published the following apology. I hope you will share this with your readers.
Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Eric Carey, extended his sincere apologies to all boaters that visit The Bahamas year after year today.
During the Exuma Business Outlook forum Director Carey answered a question from the floor that painted annual boaters in a less than flattering light. He and the BNT Executive team acknowledge that comments such as those should not have been made considering that the yachting; sailing and small craft boaters who visit the islands have a significant impact and role in the Bahamian economy, tourism and environmental longevity.
Since its inception in 1958 the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park has been a premier anchoring location for boaters who visit The Bahamas. Recently the BNT introduced anchorage fees due to the increased annual operational cost of repairs and upkeep of the Bahamas’ oldest National park. In Mr. Carey’s passion to defend his organization’s need to increase income to support the Park’s operations, he suggested that the residents of Elizabeth Harbour install moorings to help with their efforts to clean up and restore their harbor. Some residents made comments to the effect that some boaters were not willing to pay for moorings. Carey unfortunately went on record to support the comments and agreed that some of these boaters do not contribute significantly to the economy.
“The comments which I made at the Exuma Business Outlook Conference are not the views of the Trust,” noted Carey. “We welcome all visitors and most importantly boaters in The Bahamas – not only to the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park but throughout The Bahamas.”
Carey continued “international boaters are significant contributors to our economy and specifically to the more boutique islands which are not visited my mainstream tourists. In addition hundreds are annual supporters of the Trust through membership, valued Support Fleet members, the payment of mooring fees or by donating much needed personal resources to the protection of the marine environment. I offer my heartfelt apologies and hope that all boaters will continue to visit The Bahamas.”