Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 4th 2014 Contents BG10 FEEDBACK
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 2014 • WEEK ONE
It s obvious that the main industry in
Tobago is tourism. With its wonderful
beaches and favourable exchange rate
making it attractive and affordable for
foreign visitors, it s a concern for me,
having been born in Trinidad but now
living in England for over 40 years, why it s
not the top choice for holidaymakers and busi-
nesses wanting to stage conferences in its
Having just spent two weeks in the
Caribbean visiting my father, who lives in
Trinidad, and taking in Barbados, T&T I felt
obliged to share my thoughts, for what they
I am a clinician practising in London, my
specialty is complex diagnostics. I also lecture
internationally and am planning a medical
conference in the Caribbean in 2015, which
could be worth $1 million to the local economy.
I have a choice of where to hold the confer-
ence---including Tobago---and have asked for
quotes from five venues in Tobago.
The first problem I encountered was that
Virgin Atlantic Airways have stopped flying
to Tobago. I don t know exactly why, but
rumours suggest that Sir Richard Branson s
well-respected company, was unhappy with
the level of service provided by Tobago. Having
visited Tobago for more than 50 years, I know
what he means. I have gotten used to a low
level of customer service from most service
providers whose employees appear not to care
about their customers in Tobago. However, to
be fair, a recent notable exception was Coco
Reef, whose employees have definitely
improved in their attitude and level of service
compared to previous years that I have visited
and stayed with them.
However, when foreigners have a choice of
where to go with other countries providing a
much superior level of service, why would
they choose Tobago?
Because I prefer to fly with Virgin, I had to
travel to Barbados and overnight in a lovely
hotel right on the beach, with good levels of
service and comparable prices to a high-end
hotel in Tobago. This makes Barbados a great
choice for holidaymakers and business con-
ferences but, because I am a Trini, I really
would like to hold my conference in Tobago.
With BA flying to Tobago only once a week
and Monarch also only flying once a week,
(not a great flight experience according to a
friend who flew Monarch recently), the choice
and convenience of flying directly into Tobago
is now severely curtailed.
What about CAL s air bridge service between
Piarco and Crown Point, you say? I reply, you
have to be joking!
All locals know that more often than not
the air bridge service is nonsense. In fact, it
is a national embarrassment. For some reason,
this summer has been a more awful experience
than its usual frustrating experience. Some
people say it s politically motivated, to cause
embarrassment to the T&T Government, I
don t know enough about the local politics to
comment, but whatever the reason, the service
has been diabolical.
My sister and her niece, who also came
down from England in July, had a similar expe-
rience. We felt that as passengers we were
treated as an inconvenience and that we were
lucky to get a flight at all!
For me, the flight from Piarco to Crown
Point was chaos on August 12, being delayed
by two hours. Minimal announcements, long
queues for security. I m amazed there are no
toilets after you clear security in the Tobago
terminal in Piarco, especially when you have
to wait so long.
The return journey on August 18 was com-
plete chaos. After waiting for one hour at the
so-called check-in queue and noticing our
flight number wasn t even on the departure
board, we finally checked in after having to
force my way to the front, which I think is
unfair and ridiculous. Then we found out that
the plane was a 737 still without our flight
number on the departure board.
I was told, "Don t worry, your flight will
Then we had a mechanical fault with the
737, so an engineer had to be flown from Piarco
to fix it. All in all, it took a total of seven hours
to arrive in Piarco; almost as long as my flight
from London. This is completely unacceptable
for a 15-minute flight.
By the way it s also apparent that if Trinis
didn t go to Tobago during the July/August
vacation, I am sure the economy would be
severely affected. I am amazed that they seem
to put up with this level of service.
CAL or whoever is responsible, you need
to get your act together. You are in danger of
driving away a considerable amount of foreign
spending in Tobago. From what I hear, the
tourism industry is suffering from this travel
connection chaos. If it does not improve, the
foreigners (holidaymakers and businesses) will
simply not come.
I get the sense that many locals in Tobago
see the customer service industries as beneath
them. Before I qualified as an osteopath 27
years ago, I worked for McDonalds in London,
becoming its youngest manager at 16. It gave
me invaluable experience at the front end of
customer service and helped pay my way
through college. I really enjoyed the experience.
Since I became a clinician, I am still essen-
tially in customer service. My patients are pri-
vately funded and so have a choice of healthcare
provider. I have not only to be good at my
clinical job, but also at customer service oth-
erwise I simply don t get paid.
There also seems to be a perception that
foreigners are sometimes resented and must
all be wealthy. I can tell you that I spend more
than $1 million per annum on my small office
in London and my mortgage on my modest
home in the countryside outside of London
is almost $400,000 per year in repayments
(I can t actually afford to live in London, where
a small one-bedroom flat in central London
is more than $1 million). Contrary to popular
belief, most of the foreigners I know have lim-
ited disposable income and so have to choose
wisely where to spend that precious money.
We have a choice.
So in an ideal world, I would consider Toba-
go for our conference if:
• You had a good selection of international
direct flights, saving that, an air bridge con-
nection between T&T that actually worked
with minimal delays, better organisation and
respect for passengers.
• Good standard hotels that invest in great
customer service at a reasonable price.
I guess the question is: does T&T care
enough to make these improvements?
Remember, the gas and oil dollar will not
last indefinitely. T&T has been in a very lucky
position over many years.
We have the money to invest for our future
and utilise the natural resources of Tobago to
help its tourist industry. Tobago, in turn, needs
to demonstrate its commitment to a real
improvement in customer service, only then
will the tourist dollars flow into Tobago.
What do we have to lose?
The Health Equation, London
How to solve poor service
problem plaguing Tobago
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