The advisory comes after a notice on Jan. 24 from the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas, citing 18 murders since the start of the year in Nassau, the nation’s capital. The violent crime — some of it gang-related, according to the statement — has primarily affected the local population, but U.S. officials are urging tourists to take caution.
“Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas,” reads the Friday advisory. “Be vigilant when staying at short-term vacation rental properties where private security companies do not have a presence.” The department warned visitors not to answer their doors or resist any robbery attempts, and to enroll in safety alert systems while visiting.
The prime minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis, told local media that he doesn’t believe the U.S. warnings will affect the nation’s tourism industry, which makes up 70 percent of the country’s GDP and employs about half of the workforce. Authorities in the Bahamas held a news conference Sunday to address the recent spate of murders, according to the Associated Press. None of the killings this year have targeted tourists.
Homicides in the Bahamas increased by 8 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Crime data for 2023 wasn’t available.
The advisory further instructs tourists to take caution when using recreational watercraft, as they may not be “consistently regulated”; it says that maintenance of the vessels may be poor and that some operators may lack certifications. In November, a tour boat carrying roughly 100 passengers sank as it headed toward Blue Lagoon Island northeast of Nassau, killing one U.S. tourist and injuring two other passengers. A spokesperson for the State Department didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether the incident had anything to do with Friday’s warning.
“Commercial watercraft operators have discretion to operate their vessels regardless of weather forecasts; injuries and fatalities have occurred,” the advisory reads.
The department also told tourists to take caution when swimming, advising people to never swim alone and to stay within their abilities and check local weather advisories before heading out. There have been recent shark attacks, some fatal.