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Tour boat operator calls for help, claiming 200 jobs lost in sector

Boats on the water in Mangrove Bay (File photograph)

A tour boat operator has said action must be taken to support the industry after a year of Covid-19 restrictions wreaked havoc business.

He said that between the boat curfew and strict limitations to the number of people allowed on vessels, the tour boat business was dead in the water.

The operator, who asked not to be identified, said: “The Government does all sorts of things for the bars and the taxis and the restaurants, but they haven’t done anything for us or even talked to us.”

He said tour boat owners have had to endure a year with essentially no work, which has left their employees in the lurch.

He said: “A lot of our usual staff have not seen a single penny. We figure there are around 200 people in our industry who are out of work.”

The operator added that despite the lack of work, owners are still faced with a range of ongoing costs, such as docking fees, maintenance expenses and, for many operators, liquor licences.

He said: “We paid a good bit for our liquor licence but we weren’t able to actually use it.

“We had to throw away a lot of our alcohol – the beer had all gone bad.

“It’s getting to the point now where we have to apply again and we are wondering if it’s going to be worth it.”

He said that if the Government was to lift the curfew on boating – and increase the number of individuals allowed on boats – it would help a number of operators get back in business.

The measures would also benefit those who live on islands, who are particularly impacted by the 8pm boat curfew.

But he said more significant measures would be needed to support those with larger vessels.

He said: “It makes more sense to me to allow groups on a boat with the fresh air going through it than in a small room somewhere.

“What’s better than fresh air and salt water? In a building, it’s recycled air and germs everywhere.”

David Burt, the Premier, said at a press conference on Tuesday that Government was willing to assist struggling tour boat operators.

He said: “I’m happy to make the resources of the Economic Development Corporation available.

“I know I have seen some communications regarding tour boats – one of the requests was for the boat curfew to be pushed back to take into account sunset cruises. That was the reason the boat curfew was pushed back.

“We just have to be honest and realistic and we know that there are persons that will use the water to violate curfew regulations and we are trying to reduce the possibility of that.

“These are things that will be re-examined next week and there may be some changes to that or there may not be some changes to that.”

The Premier also urged tour boat operators to reach out to him.

But operator said he had e-mailed the Premier about the challenges he has faced prior to the conference and did not receive a response.

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Published March 01, 2021 at 8:33 am (Updated March 01, 2021 at 8:33 am)

Tour boat operator calls for help, claiming 200 jobs lost in sector

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