Monday, June 5, 2023


‘I Want to Pay Up’ Says Fyre Festival Fraudster Who Is Considered a ‘Fugitive’

Following Tourism Minister Chester Cooper’s labeling of Fyre Festival fraudster as “a fugitive,” Billy McFarland says he wants Bahamians to restore their trust in him as he seeks to reimburse the people he duped out of thousands of dollars in 2017.

“I would like to start making small positive steps. Unfortunately, I don’t have the backing I had five, or six years ago, but as I earn I would like to start making payments and I would like to start engaging with the community as much as possible,” McFarland said in a voice note.


McFarland was handed down a 6-year sentence in a US court in 2018 and was ordered to pay $26 million in restitution to investors and vendors. He was released in August after 4 years and has since returned to the Bahamas with cameras in tow as he embarks on a new adventure–a scavenger hunt in Bahamian waters.

This angered caterer Elvis Rolle who with his wife Maryann, lost $50,000 in food preparation for the festival that never happened.

The government on Monday then attempted to take a hard line on McFarland’s return stating that the promoter is being sought by police after “several pending complaints [were] made against him with the Royal Bahamas Police Force.”

Cooper then prompted anyone knowing of McFarland’s whereabouts to report it to the police.

While McFarland has not indicated where he is in the Bahamas, he stated, that since his release from prison, he attempted to find out which vendors needed to be reimbursed in the Bahamas and how he can take steps to repay them.

“I made some really bad decisions five years ago and I’m learning the ramifications of my actions.

“There’s nothing more I want to do than rebuild trust,” he said.

McFarland conducted an interview with Good Morning America last week after his release from prison and apologized to the vendors and investors he conned.

In April 2017, McFarland along with Ja Rule organized the Fyre Festival, promoting it as a luxurious music event in Exuma. Several celebrities got on board to promote the event including Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. But when thousands of concertgoers landed on the island, they were met with tents stocked with wet mattresses, cold food, and music acts that never showed up.

RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen Test Required for Locals Before Hotel Check-in

The Ministry of Tourism said the use of an RT-PCR test or Rapid Antigen test is necessary for citizens and residents before check-in at a hotel.

However, none is required if citizens or residents are using the hotel’s outdoor facilities like a restaurant or golf course, without having to enter the hotel.

In these particular instances, observing the usual health protocols (wear a mask, sanitize your hands and keep six feet away from anyone who is not in your party) are expected.

The Ministry of Tourism explains why

  • The purpose of this new Order is to safeguard the use of hotels by all persons and to mitigate any negative impact the Coronavirus may have on this critical component of our tourism sector.
  • As such, all persons wishing to stay in a hotel in either New Providence or Grand Bahama must be in possession of a RT-PCR test or a Rapid Antigen test, with a negative result, prior to check in.
  • Since all travellers entering The Bahamas from another country are required to be in possession of a RT PCR test prior to arrival, they will, with the presentation of a valid Bahamas Health Travel Visa, automatically fulfill this requirement.
  • In addition, since all travellers are required to complete a Rapid Antigen test on the fifth day of their return to The Bahamas, that too, will automatically extend their ability to visit hotels and their related facilities.
  • All tests, whether PCR or Rapid Antigen, are valid for seven days until 4 January 2021 and then valid for five days thereafter.

Why D’Aguilar Wants US to Change Level 4 Travel Advisory

Minister of Tourism Dionisio D’Aguilar is hoping that the United States will see the country’s improvement in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and raise the travel advisory for the Bahamas.

Why it matters

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice, warning that travelers should avoid all travel to the Bahamas. The general advisory is Level 3, meaning that travelers should reconsider travel to the Bahamas.
  • The warning can affect the country’s economy as the Bahamas mostly depends on tourism for its revenue. The country is seeking to reopen to international travelers, to stimulate the economy in midst of the pandemic.

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar wants U.S to reassess the COVID-19 situation in the Bahamas

“This is no change from what was said from the US government from July.

“This situation has been in effect from July. It’s all about timing. When they release the travel order at the end of July, it was very unfortunate because up to the end June, we were doing so remarkably well in terms of our management of the covid pandemic.

“Once again this is a question of timing. At the end of October, we were not doing terribly well. Here we are a month later, we’re much better.

“So we’re hoping that Americans see fit to do reassessment as they see our numbers improve and see fit to change that rating,” he said.

D’Aguilar’s advice for Bahamians

“Please don’t congregate, please don’t party. Because if you contribute to a spike in numbers, this rating or this warning will persist and we are heading in the right direction. Our numbers are coming down and this will then lead to a change in that travel advisory.”

Featured image: Fox Business

Dioniso Says Tourism Takes Better Care of Bahamians. Why Tourism Won’t Ever Go Away

Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar is anticipating all major hotels to reopen by October 15.

He said the government is targetting the full operations of beaches across the country.

D’Aguilar said the government wants to ensure a sustainable opening as the reopening and closing has impacted the industry.

“That was too traumatic for the tourism sector and significantly impacted our relationship with our travel partners,” he said.

The government is eyeing a complete reopening of the industry by early November, D’Aguilar said.

Will the Bahamas ever do away with tourism?

The answer is no.

D’Aguilar said tourism is the only industry that has proven to rebound after hurricanes, pandemics, and global recessions.

The industry has exacerbated the growth of the economy and is the number one provider of foreign exchange and primary source revenue for the treasury of the Bahamas.

D’Aguilar said there is no other economic sector that can deliver with immediacy and magnitude, the foreign exchange, employment levels, and tax revenues. Many developing countries, including the Bahamas, rely on tax receipts from its tourism industries
to facilitate food and construction imports.

He argued that the economic potential is unparalleled as tourism is the worlds’ second-fastest-growing sector and the world’s largest employer of skilled and unskilled workers.

In fact, human capital development for the Bahamas–housing, education, health, infrastructure, and tax revenue is derived from the millions of tourists who visit the Bahama shores each year.

What about diversification?

Ever since the Bahamas tourism suffered a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, critics have argued that the Bahamas must look to diversify its economy, with less dependency on the sector. The Bahamas has seen a 56 percent fall-off in visitor arrivals during the first six months of the year – from a record 3.9 million arrivals in 2019 to 1.7 million in 2020.

D’Aguilar said this shows a misunderstanding of trade, markets, and how economies function.

Instead, D’Aguilar touts diversification within the industry.

He said it means the country has to incorporate more local content from manufacturing, culture and heritage, arts and entertainment, accommodations, restaurants, authentically Bahamian products, and transportation to build a dynamic market, and to ensure that every dollar spent by the visitor on those goods and services stays in the country and in the hands of Bahamians.

What are the challenges facing the Bahamas’ market?

D’Aguilar admits that challenges face the  Bahamas.

He said the country’s marketplace is more vulnerable than many in our region, and indeed around the world. He added that it is neither as robust nor as competitive as it could be, stating that it lacks diversity and has been starved of significant increases in new, locally owned businesses and market innovation for many years.

He acknowledged that the country can improve its tourism model to increase trade and economic opportunity.

Ministry of Tourism Back-Pedals On Negative COVID-19 Test Result for Bahamian Guests at Hotels

The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is walking back a negative COVID-19 test requirement for Bahamians on hotel property, which has garnered criticism from the public.

The ministry says, “Following consultation with the Ministry of Health, the Competent Authority (who is Prime Minister Hubert Minnis) has affirmed that a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test will not be required by Bahamian and resident guests of hotels.”

Just yesterday, a press release from the ministry said hotels and resorts should not allow international guests nor Bahamian residents on property without negative COVID-19 test results, as the ministry said it was aware of special offers and packages being offered by hotels for Bahamian residents during the weekend lockdown periods.

Now today, the ministry says it has recommended, and the Competent Authority has agreed to, two provisions:

1. The Public Health measures that the Ministry of Health has put in place for the protection of the public, inclusive of mask wearing, social distancing and sanitization protocols, be strictly adhered to. These are detailed in the Emergency Powers Orders, on the Ministry of Health’s website and in the manual created by the Ministry of Tourism and approved by the Ministry Health for the reopening of our tourism industry.

2. Indoor dining is to be closed.

The ministry says the Royal Bahamas Police Force will be particularly vigilant in its surveillance of hotel properties to ensure compliance and warned that properties will be fined and/or closed per the Orders if they are found to be in violation.


‘Weekend Lockdowns Not For Hotel Staycation’

The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation says hotels and resorts should not allow international guests nor Bahamian residents on property without negative COVID-19 test results.

The ministry says it is aware of special offers and packages being offered by hotels for Bahamian residents during weekend lockdown periods.

The Ministry says this should not be as weekend lockdowns are designed to curb further spread of the virus.

“All residents with the exception of essential workers are required to remain in their place of residence for the duration of the lockdown period unless for the purpose of seeking emergency medical care or securing groceries, gas, pharmaceuticals or water,” the statement says.