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Cadiz: T&T still safe for tourists
Despite the challenges to reduce the high incidence of crime, Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz says T&T remains a safe place for tourists. Cadiz was speaking to the media yesterday at the official induction of the new chairman of the Tourism Development Company Ltd (TDC) Brian Frontin, at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain.
Asked if he felt that the high incidence of crime would continue to affect the already low tourist arrivals, he said: “I don’t want to water down crime by any means and while it’s the major problem that the country is experiencing, crime against tourists is low.” He said it was difficult to record the crime statistics concerning tourists because it was so low.
He said, however, “I don’t want us to feel because crime against tourist is low, that it is okay.” Cadiz admitted that some people would be turned off by the high number because some travellers log on to the Internet and do their research. “Crime is always a challenge and it is bound to have some impact on the industry but the Government is working to get it under control.”
The murder rate stands at 70 for the year so far. Frontin, a former chairman of Evolving TecKnologies & Enterprise Development Company Ltd (e TecK/InvesTT) and three other new directors—Daren Ganga, T&T Sports Ambassador, Naidu Powdhar and Madhavi Teeluckchan, an attorney-at-law, were the four new directors on the ten-member board.
Frontin declined to be interviewed until he meets with the board next Wednesday. Cadiz said he is confident in Frontin’s management and leadership capabilities to drive not only the board but tourism in a positive direction.
Questioned by the media about the directors’ competence, given the past challenges faced by the previous boards, Cadiz said each member brought specific expertise and was strategically chosen in order to build a more cohesive relationship with TDC and the ministry. Cadiz avoided answering any questions about the previous board and its leadership.
“The board’s first mandate is to raise the profile of T&T by creating a destination marketing and promotion brand for the country and encouraging investment and asset management in the sector,” he said. Cadiz said the mandate is critical because the industry has become extremely competitive with approximately 35 destinations in the Caribbean marketing and branding their product globally.
“It is the hope that this new board raises the profile of the country where it is no longer a secret destination and for tourism to become an important economic driver,” he said. He said consumers have many choices and internationally there has been consolidation of trade and there is more online travel buying, so the fight for market share is “vicious.”
Given the competitive environment, Cadiz said he is optimistic that the local tourism sector will do well as T&T experienced moderate growth in tourism arrivals for 2012. The figure increased from 435,000 in 2011 to 458,000 in 2012. Even though the increase is small, Cadiz said he is cautiously optimistic that T&T will get 500,000 visitors for 2013.
He said local hotels enjoyed more than 95 per cent occupancy rate from Carnival Friday to Ash Wednesday and 100 per cent for bed and breakfast properties. Cadiz said the cruise ship industry had a 12 per cent turnaround from experiencing a decline in the previous years. Arrival passenger figures stood at 54,169.
Notwithstanding this encouraging news, Cadiz said that the UK’s arrival duty tax was still creating a problem for tourist arrivals and the issue must be addressed urgently. The other issue was the increased threats to the nation’s biodiversity, namely leatherback turtles and ocelots.
Wildlife also remains a strong draw card for tourism and Cadiz said the issue of hunting would be also addressed. He said the ministry plans to be proactive by “going out and knocking on doors.”
There are three conferences in the next five months where the ministry and its stakeholders will be attending to build the country’s presence and brand. The talkfests planned are The Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s 14th annual conference in April; the 17th annual Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference in May; and the Travel Professionals of Colour Conference and Trade Show in July/August.
Janelle “Penny” Commissiong-Chow—deputy chair
Dyanand Maharaj—managing director, Dylam Company
Cheryle Dubay-Tewarie—business development manager at UWI
Feroza Khan-Abdul—management banker
Ryan D’Arcy—account director, Mc Cann Erickson Trinidad
Carol Ann Birchwood-James—past-president of Tobago Tourism and Hospitality Association
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