I suppose you can put it down to my naivety, so long in coming, so many great expectations and then in hindsight, the reality of the situation. Almost 40 percent of the eligible electorate chose not to vote, the status quo re-elected for a second term by a precariously small majority and just microscopic adjustments made to the governance of an industry in crisis. At least, that seems to be the scenario, so far.
Clearly there are plus points. Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, appointed as a Parliamentary Secretary in the reconfigured Ministry and Tourism and International Transport, when many of us years later are still puzzled why the two bodies were ever separated in the first place. The Senator brings her abilities in marketing to the table at a time when this discipline is needed more than ever.
Shadowing the Ministry is Member of Parliamant Santia Bradshaw and while I don’t want to diminish her abundant legal qualifications, I am far from convinced we need or want any more lawyers involved in tourism policymaking. But she is also an entrepreneur and after looking at her website, I was personally impressed with the high level of presentation. Hopefully she can add value and youthful objectivity to the sector from a constructive opposition stance.
Now is the time for solutions.
A line in the sand has been indelibly etched: to re-state what many of us have been saying for months. While the global recession and the dreaded APD tax have helped stifle growth in visitor arrival numbers, they are not the sole causes of our dismal performance in tourism. Now this has been established beyond any reasonable doubt, it is time to move on and implement policies that will restore viability to the industry.
‘All the signs suggest Caribbean tourism is rallying’ and a ‘5.4 percent growth rate outpaced the rest of the world’. These comments attributed to Chairwoman of the CTO, Beverly Nicholson-Doty when referring to statistics for 2012. With Easter just over two weeks away, traditionally arrival volumes start to fall very soon after. This means we are currently facing an extended softer eight long summer months without any national marketing plan in place. What really puzzles me is that both Government and the BTA have failed to explain the fiscal challenges they are currently encountering honestly to the private sector. There has been this cloak of silence, while the public sector seems to enjoy this assumed comfort of continued employment almost at any cost.
But as we enter the shoulder season, thousands of tourism workers have genuine concern, whether they will keep their jobs or have working hours severely reduced to dramatically lower living standards for them and their families. Frankly, it has been an appalling job of public relations in keeping the private sector fully informed and ‘we’ should all learn from this.
Following the tragic events of 911, with all the then associated impending doom and gloom that threatened our number one industry, a meeting of key players in tourism was convened to brainstorm our options at that time. It was, in my opinion, one of the most productive meetings that I have attended in twenty five years. Maybe, its time again, to put the politics aside and focus exactly how we are going to kick-start what fuels our economy.