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Straw Markets officially re-opened



#TheBahamas, November 24, 2021 – It is the intention of the Government to make centres of craft, souvenirs and creative products made by Bahamians the centre stage of the tourism product. The Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities, underscored this point as he addressed a press conference to officially announce the reopening of straw markets.

“The government will continue to invest in our markets so that they are the centre, not the periphery, not on the side, but the very centre of the attractions that are offered to our visitors in this country,” said Minister Sears.

“Yes, the hotels, the wonderful cruise ships and the other amenities, but we want the markets of our country to be the platform to display and to set the creative products of the Bahamian creative imagination.”

The conference was held Monday, November 22, at the Bay Street market. It was attended by: the Hon. Bacchus Rolle, Parliamentary Secretary; Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary; Reginald Saunders, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation (MOTIA); Gregory Butler, Deputy Permanent Secretary; Elaine Simms, Managing Director, Straw Market Authority; officials from the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation; Ministry of Works (MOW) and representatives of straw market federations.

The Downtown market was buzzing Monday as vendors arranged displays, tourists browsed and construction work continued on an infirmary and bathrooms. The straw markets — including, Forts Charlotte and Fincastle, Paradise Island, Bay Street and Cable Beach reopened some 22 months after closing due to COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

Minister Sears emphasized it was a priority for the markets throughout the country to reopen.

He said, “The money that they make, those profits are not repatriated to another country. That money is spent here educating their children, spending on their mortgages, supporting their families. This is the measure of the reopening of the economy.”

The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) has proposed a number of protocols to ensure that the markets are safe.

Minister Sears explained the provisional measures including a rotation between groups A and B for the 360 vendors.

“Whatever we do we have to do [it] in consultation with MOHW but we are listening to the stakeholders who have put forward certain recommendations.

“These are provisional transitional measures during a global pandemic. As the health officials indicate to us that it is safe to go back to a more liberal and more open infrastructure, we will do so.”

Minister Sears informed that safeguards including temperature checks and sanitization stations will be a part of the culture throughout the market to avoid the spread of COVID-19.  Weekly antigen testing is required by vendors.

He thanked the offices of the straw vendors’ federations for their cooperation and close collaboration with the MOW to achieve a reopening date. He also acknowledged stakeholders including MOHW, MOTIA, the police, the fire department, for the “extraordinary” collaboration.

Ms. Simms noted the Department of Environmental Health began the process of exterminating all of the markets in 2020.  She said washing stations and temperature check facilities among others were installed at entrances.

Moreover, she informed that a major requirement for vendors and staff was to undergo CPR/first aid training and training by the MOTIA.

Mr. Rolle said it gives the Ministry great pleasure to ensure that over 300 self-employed individuals are able to return to work after 20 months without an income.

“We have staggered seating, alternate days, proper sanitization and security. This is not the end, this is the beginning. We anticipate that in the coming weeks and months we will evolve into what we want it to be. We continue to push that to ensure that we get to our final destination,” he added.

By Kathryn Campbell

Release: BIS

Photo Caption – Scenes from the official opening of the Downtown Bay Street straw market Monday, November 22, 2021 showing tourists using the newly installed temperature checks as they enter and as they stroll through the market. Reginald Saunders, Permanent Secretary; the Hon. Bacchus Rolle, Parliamentary Secretary; the Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities and Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary.  Celestine Eneas, longtime vendor, is also shown.

(BIS Photos/Kristaan Ingraham)

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U.S. Supports the RBPF With Additional Crime Fighting Vehicles on The Bahamas’ “Road to 50”



#TheBahamas, January 31, 2023 – Since 1973, the United States and The Bahamas have enjoyed a long-lasting security partnership.  To mark this valued friendship, the United States Government, on January 31, 2023, renewed its support for the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) with 20 new Ford Police Inceptor Hybrid SUVs valuing nearly $1.4 million.  The United States’ Chargé d’Affaires Usha Pitts; Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis; Minister of National Security, the Hon. Wayne Munroe and RBPF Commissioner Clayton Fernander were on hand for the donation at RBPF East Hill Street Headquarters.

The 20 hybrid vehicles will be added to the 32 vehicles previously donated to the RBPF by the US government to help replace crucial infrastructure lost during Hurricane Dorian.  Recovering from a hurricane is an arduous process that requires support at many levels, from roads and housing to mental health services.  The U.S. government hopes these vehicles will contribute to one key step in the process: citizen security.  These vehicles will not only assist the RBPF’s efforts to combat crime but will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the islands.

In her remarks Chargé Pitts noted, “these vehicles are just one example of the United States’ continued efforts to help for The Bahamas’ keep its citizens and visitors safe.”

Prime Minister Philip Davis showed his appreciation for this timely vehicle donation as it will assist with added capacity and increased saturation patrols on the streets.  The Prime Minister added that residents will notice an increased police presence and the police will have new capacity to respond quickly to any criminal activity.

RBPF Commissioner Clayton Fernander highlighted that “we have noticeably taken more illegal firearms and ammunition off our streets in 2022.  We have also seized more illegal drugs including marijuana and marijuana plants than in [previous] years.  Suffice to say, we have efficiently utilized all 32 vehicles previously donated by the U.S. government in our crime fighting efforts.”

In recent years, the U.S. Government, through U.S. Embassy Nassau, has delivered more than $25 million to assist The Bahamas with efforts to fight crime.  On behalf of the Bahamian people, Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe extended his gratitude for the U.S. government’s assistance noting “It seems that when we’re together there [is] always an occasion where they [U.S. government] have helped us and assisted us substantially.”

Captions: Credited to U.S. Embassy Nassau

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Minister of Health & Wellness thanks Cuban nurses for their service during the COVID-19 Pandemic



#TheBahamas, January 31, 2023 – An appreciation ceremony was held at SuperClubs Breezes resort, January 30, 2023, to thank the remaining cohort of nurses from the Republic of Cuba who joined the cadre of healthcare workers at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) to assist in the delivery of hospital services and patient care in face of the impact of COVID-19.
The cohort originally comprised 42 nurses who started their duties on Monday, January 24, 2022. The ceremony was attended by some 25 remaining nurses.
Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville thanked the Cuban Ambassador, His Excellency Julio Cesar Gonzalez Marchante, on behalf of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues, for Cuba’s response to the call for help from the Bahamas Government.
“You came to us in one of our most dangerous moments. You came to us in the heat of the Delta Variant when many of our brothers and sisters lost their lives as a result of COVID,” Minister Darville said.
“At the time that I went to Cuba, we had about 100 nurses in our healthcare system who were out as a result of COVID, while the developed world was recruiting our nurses left, right and centre.”
He also noted that at that time The Bahamas could not even get vaccines.
“We are a Small Island Developing State. The world was hoarding the vaccines to developed countries and our population was very vulnerable because we did not have access to what the developed world had.”
Minister Darville said, “But we had a friend 100 miles to the south of us who came to our rescue. You came to us at our most vulnerable moment. For that as a country, Your Excellency, we will forever be grateful to the Republic of Cuba.”
The Minister noted that the nurses’ services were so exemplary and needed, the contract, which was originally for three months, was extended to one-year. Despite this, he said it was time for the nurses to return home to their loved ones.
However, he explained that the relationship between the two countries has not ended as he is in negotiations with the Republic of Cuba for bringing in some additional biomedical engineers, physicians, respiratory therapists and HVAC specialists.
PHOTO CAPTION – Minister of Health and Wellness the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville thanked the nurses from the Republic of Cuba for bolstering the country’s healthcare system during the COVID-19 Pandemic, during an appreciation ceremony at SuperClubs Breezes, Monday, January 30, 2023.
(BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

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The Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation on Visitor Arrivals



#TheBahamas, January 30, 2023 – The Ministry of Tourism is extremely excited to announce that visitor arrivals to The Bahamas eclipsed seven million in 2022, signaling a return to pre-pandemic tourism numbers.
In total 7,000,706 visitors came to The Bahamas in 2022.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation Chester Cooper praised The Bahamas’ performance and the work put in by industry professionals across the board.

“The fact that we have exceeded expectations and attracted more than 7 million visitors to our country in 2022, something only done once before in a single year was no accident,” he said.

“Countless stakeholders in the Bahamian tourism industry, including our international partners, worked tirelessly to achieve this. We sought to strengthen relationships to open new air routes. We sought to make travel to The Bahamas easier, more accessible, and affordable and took the message that we were open for business during our Missions and provided insight on our wonderful offerings to the world.”

DPM Cooper forecasted that 2023 promises to shatter even pre-pandemic numbers as interest in the Bahamas and our brand reputation have never been stronger.

“According to statistics the second half of 2022 outperformed the second half of 2019,” he said. In 2022, 1,470,244 visitors came to our shores by air; another 5,530,462 visitors arrived by sea.

Nassau and Grand Bahama remained our most popular destinations by air, while Nassau and The Berry Islands remained our most popular destinations by sea.  Foreign air and sea arrivals for 2022 were up by 233 percent over the same period in 2021 and just 3.4 percent shy of record arrivals in 2019.  December 2022 saw total arrivals eclipse 900,000 visitors, more than any month in our history.  Cruise arrivals in 2022 increased by nearly 400 percent over 2021 and were less than 1 percent below 2019 cruise arrivals.

Air and cruise arrivals monthly from July to December 2022 surpassed the corresponding month in 2019.
Occupancy rates for 2022 eclipsed occupancy rates for every corresponding month in 2021.

The average daily room rate in 2022 outperformed that category for every corresponding month in 2021. The Bahamas carved out new ground with more than 55 percent of first-time arrivals to The Bahamas, with increases in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

DPM Cooper confirmed that the last six months are the strongest The Bahamas has ever seen.  He firmly concluded by saying; “What the Ministry of Tourism, Investments, and Aviation are forecasting so far and what forward bookings indicate, is that we are on track to break records in 2023. We don’t see this slowing down anytime soon.”

Mrs. Latia Duncombe, Director General of Tourism added that everyone should understand that tourism is critical to our economy and all Bahamians, even those who do not directly work in the tourism industry, should always seek to lift the industry up.

“We are all in the tourism business in The Bahamas. And it’s a great business to be in. We want to keep our brand fresh and evergreen. And that’s everyone’s job, especially mine. I have a great, hardworking team at our ministry and we have some incredible things in store this year.”

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