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Canadian traveller warns: Stay away from Tobago

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Canadian businessman and traveller who fled Tobago last year has created a Web site warning foreigners to stay away from the island. In an article in the Canadian daily newspaper, Metro, 61-year-old Phil Noonan claimed in March 2012 he was attacked by two Tobagonians while staying at a guest house in Buccoo, Tobago. 



He said it occurred after he intervened in a fight between a young Tobagonian man and the owner of a restaurant and bar which he often visited.  Later that day, Noonan told the paper, the young man and his brother appeared outside his door shouting angrily and threatening to kill him. Three weeks after the incident, Noonan said, he fled the island in fear and frustration.


Since then, he has created a Web site ——which outlines his many negative experiences on the island and warns tourists about the dangers there. Among issues he outlined were violent crime, poor customer service, high levels of government corruption and inefficiency and indifference among the police. 


The Web site also displays past travel advisories from the US State Department and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, warning of high levels of violent crime in T&T. Yesterday the T&T Guardian spoke to an official from the Division of Tourism and Transportation of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), who said the division had never received a report on the alleged incident involving Noonan and was following it up.


In a telephone interview yesterday, Tourism Minister Stephen Cadiz said he was aware of some “worrying incidents” that have taken place in Tobago involving tourists and was working with the Ministry of National Security and the THA to ensure any attacks on tourists were addressed seriously. He described such incidents as “very unfortunate” but said they were rare. He added: “We want to ensure that incidents like that are few and far between, if at all. We also want to ensure that if they do happen, it is handled in a way so that the victim does not feel left alone.”


Earlier this week the Huffington Post’s Web site published a list of the ten least tourist-friendly nations in the world.  T&T ranked eighth on the list, which included countries such as Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Haiti. The Post described T&T’s presence on the list as “slightly baffling, considering the locals are very friendly.” It added infrastructure in T&T needed improvement. Asked about his thoughts on that, Cadiz agreed that T&T’s presence on the list was surprising since locals were welcoming and friendly.


He added: “One has to be very careful about these indices that are printed because very often they are more of a perception than a reality.” However, he said, he would not disregard issues of negative perception of the island and his ministry was embarking on a national campaign to deal with the issue. In addition, he said, he would soon sign a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Tertiary Education to establish a development programme involving tourism stakeholders.


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