The Bahamas government insists it remains a “safe and welcoming destination” for travelers despite a recent warning issued by the US State Department.
Recent Crimes Spur Update to Travel Advisory to The Bahamas
Bahamian government officials on December 30 issued a formal reply to recent US warnings that the islands have seen an increase in violent crimes.
“The Government of the Bahamas is alert, attentive, and proactive to ensure that the Bahamas remains a safe and welcoming destination,” the statement begins.
A Level 2 Travel Advisory was issued by the US State Department on Friday, January 26, 2024. Such an advisory is a recommendation to “Exercise Increased Caution” when visiting the specified destination.
Though the Bahamas had been listed as a Level 2 alert location for more than a year, recent concerns prompted US officials to update the advisory.
Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas,” the advisory reads. “Be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.”
In its official reply, the Bahamian government pointed out that its Level 2 status has remained unchanged. Cruise ship traffic to the islands, meanwhile, remains unaffected by the advisories.
“The incidents described in the January 2024 US Embassy crime alert do not reflect general safety in The Bahamas, a country of 16 tourism destinations, and many more islands,” the statement reads.
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Still, the Bahamian statement does outline a strategy for dealing with the increased attention. Officials say they’re implementing a “comprehensive approach” that will focus on prevention, detection, prosecution, punishment, and rehabilitation.
“Our law enforcement agencies are taking rigorous steps to maintain our well-earned reputation, including an enhanced police presence and additional police resources (including facial recognition CCTV surveillance technology) and training,” the statement reads.
Bahamian officials added that their nation has a “zero-tolerance policy” for firearm possession
US Embassy Warns Visitors
A separate security alert was issued by the US Embassy in Nassau on January 24, noting that 18 homicides have been reported in Nassau so far in 2024.
“Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets,” the embassy’s alert reads. “Retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders.”
For that reason, visitors are urged to exercise extreme caution when visiting Nassau and the eastern part of New Providence Island. Walking and driving at night is discouraged, and visitors are advised to keep a low profile.
Tourist activities involving watercraft were also pointed out by the US State Department as a focus point for security and safety issues.
This includes rented boats, swimming, and shark encounter tours – activities that are popular shore excursions for cruise passengers when visiting the Bahamas. Visitors should particularly be cautious when booking activities that aren’t offered by the cruise lines.
“Watercraft may be poorly maintained, and some operators may not have safety certifications,” the advisory said. “Commercial watercraft operators have discretion to operate their vessels regardless of weather forecasts; injuries and fatalities have occurred.”
On November 14, 2023, a Blue Lagoon Island ferry sank in rough waters, resulting in the death of a cruise passenger. The double-decker boat was en route to Blue Lagoon Island from the Nassau Cruise Port.
Nassau Cruise Traffic Expected to Hit New Record in 2023
Cruise ship traffic is big business to the Bahamas, with passenger counts setting new records annually. Last year, the port completed a four-year, $300 million expansion project that included adding a new berth, allowing Nassau to accommodate six cruise ships per day.
On December 27, 2023, Nassau Cruise Port witnessed 29,316 cruise passengers from six different ships, breaking a daily record set in February 2023. For all of 2023, Nassau was expecting 4.2 million passengers. As of November 30, it was nearly there, with 3.89 million guests visiting the port.