Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 30th 2017 Contents opinion A19
Saturday, September 30, 2017
A moot Sandals debate
Many people in T&T continue to
be obstinate when it comes to the
travel and tourism industry.
Recently, several of these "ex-
perts" have chosen to knock the
attempts to have Sandals establish
a resort in Tobago, offering only
that "we can do it ourselves".
Well the easy answer to that is
we cannot, and the truth is if we
could have, we would have.
The same way we might lend
advice to a neighbour regarding
oil exploration and production,
we ourselves have to appreciate
that we need assistance when
it comes to developing a robust
Why tourism? Let's look at
some facts from the World Tour-
ism Council. Travel and tourism
generated US$7.6 trillion (ten per
cent of global GDP) and 277 mil-
lion jobs (one in 11 jobs) for the
global economy in 2014.
Recent years have seen travel
and tourism growing at a faster
rate than both the wider economy
and other signi icant sectors such
as automotive, inancial services
and health care.
In the Caribbean, the sector's
direct contribution to GDP in 2015
was US$16.6 bn. This is forecast to
go up to US$22.5 bn in 2015.
In terms of its total contribu-
tion to GDP, which is including
the business generated by the
linkages created, travel and tour-
ism's total contribution to GDP in
the Caribbean alone was nearly
US$53 bn in 2015 projected to rise
to US$73.6 bn in 2025.
The sector also creates employ-
ment for over 2.2 million people.
These are impressive numbers
and we need to move past a men-
tality nurtured in dwindling oil
and gas reserves, and tap into a
market where the dollars con-
tinue to flow.
The biggest advantage we have
is simply our geographic location.
Look at how the hurricanes have
ravaged the islands further north.
And that's where I come to San-
People seem to confuse a
"brand" and a "name". Many
argue that it is suf icient to push
'Tobago". Well it is not, not if we
are to attract the visitors and the
airlift that is required.
A recent story spoke of Tobago
hoteliers struggling to make ends
meet, and one of the big prob-
lems was that the airlines just
don't come there anymore, so the
visitors don't come.
If the brand "Tobago" could
have increased airlift, it would
On the other hand, the legacy
airlines such as America, Delta,
JetBlue, Virgin and British Air-
ways always fly wherever Sandals
has a hotel.
If we do our research, we
would see that it has happened in
St Lucia, it has happened in An-
tigua, and it has happened most
recently just a few miles away
in Grenada. In fact, JetBlue has
stated on record that the only
reason it flies to Saint Lucia is
because there are three Sandals
That is what a brand does. To-
bago is beautiful and we love it,
but it does not have the brand ef-
icacy of a Sandals. And we must
remember that it may only be 20
or 30 per cent of the customers
flying on the airlines who actually
go to Sandals. The small hotels
will bene it too. That's because
once the flights are there, many
people will look for the more af-
fordable places to stay, which is
why indirectly Sandals will ben-
e it all.
More flights mean more busi-
ness, more taxi drivers, more
local purchases, more tour oper-
ators getting work and you can go
on.Anyone who takes a little ef-
fort to research all of this will
ind out what I have just tried to
explain, and it pains me to see
people playing politics with this
issue out of just seeking political
mileage, self-gain or out of sheer
If we don't tap into this mar-
ket now and Cuba comes in, and
Cuba decides that it wants San-
dals to come back there, then
as the old people say, "crapaud
smoke we pipe."
Tellers have more power
than Ministry of Finance
Our commercial banks are the
ones that sell foreign exchange
and therefore control who gets
and who does not. How do they
Why doesn't the Ministry of Fi-
nance insist that the banks publi-
cise this process, as it seems that
the "traders" (tellers) at each of
the commercial banks' Forex
departments yield considerable
power in our economy. In fact,
these traders/tellers may have
more power than the minister
of Finance himself in US$ alloca-
Here's a scenario: If two com-
peting companies doing the exact
same business but one has loans
with the bank and one does not,
who do you think the bank will
put in front of the US$ queue?
Maybe this is why the banks are
still making considerable pro its
in lower economic times as they
can control their risks in a way
that most businesses cannot.
So, if the Government wants
to talk about forex allocations to
certain (export oriented) indus-
tries, it must provide clarity in the
"queue" process at each bank and
exactly how each bank manages
allocations on an equitable basis.
Opportunity for T&T to boost tourism
It is heartening to see the over-
whelming response by both the
public and private sector to the
devastation suffered by our Car-
ibbean family from the recent
hurricanes. Hopefully, this spirit
of giving and caring will continue
even after they are back on their
Now, while we assist our Cari-
com brothers and sisters in the re-
building process we must also be
aware to the opportunities these
disasters have created.
Speci ically, some of the islands
whose infrastructure and hotel
room stock suffered near nearly
total destruction will take maybe
over a year to be ready to receive
visitors from the north again.
Meanwhile our beautiful sister
isle of Tobago, which is safely out-
side of the hurricane belt is enjoy-
ing abysmal occupancy rates of
below 20 per cent.
Surely, given this reality, we
should be launching strong pro-
motional programmes to get
more visitors to come to both
Trinidad and Tobago.
In this regard, can we hear of
your plans Madame Tourism Min-
Why no Caricom Disaster Relief Fund?
One of the characteristics of Carib-
bean people seems to be our dis-
like for saving for rainy days.
Trinidad and Tobago experi-
enced an oil boom in the 1970s,
when oil prices were very high.
Instead of saving something for
possible rainy days ahead, we will
recall then Prime Minister Dr Eric
Williams' famous statement that
"money is no problem." Not only
did we not save, there were huge
increases in expenditure without a
corresponding increase in produc-
tivity. When oil prices declined,
we fell flat.
Thankfully, former Prime Min-
ister Basdeo Panday initiated the
Heritage and Stabilisation Fund so
we still have a little something put
away for dif icult times.
Now that the rainy and stormy
days have struck the region, espe-
cially Dominica, where are they
to source affordable funding for
Do regional prime ministers talk
about disaster preparedness and
relief when they meet at the Car-
icom level? Do regional disaster
relief agencies communicate and
co-ordinate? Up to now we have
not heard much from the Caricom
Secretariat on the devastation in
Given the dynamics of our cli-
mate and our history of being
ravaged by adverse weather an-
nually, it is high time that there be
a regional disaster relief Fund in
place, at Caricom level. The chal-
lenges posed by the climate will
not soften in the near future. Addi-
tionally, the seismic experts have
been warning us for some time
now that the region is due for a big
earthquake. The need for disaster
mitigation will become greater.
In the absence of some kind of
of icial Caricom relief it is now
left to member states to respond.
But who is co-ordinating the relief
contributions? It is quite possible
that Dominicans can get an over-
load of drinking water but no con-
struction nails to rebuild.
Caribbean governments do not
have a lot of money to place in
funds, but they must start some-
how and seek additional support
from developed countries and
international bodies. It makes no
sense bragging about independ-
ence, republicanism and our own
inal appellate court, while we run
to our former colonisers when dis-
At this time, Dominica should
have had a few million dollars
from a relief fund for construction
material. Regional governments
should supply manpower and
rebuilding should be well on the
Our government has opened its
borders for Dominicans to come
until it okay to go home. I wonder
who would want to leave his home
or business place for others to re-
pair while he is comfortable here.
In times of adversity why do we
want to break up families? Don't
family support and bonding mat-
ter in challenging times?
But then again, consider if Trini-
dad and Tobago had a disaster and
the Canadian government opened
its borders to us, what would hap-
The University of the West Indies
Today will be the sixth day since this empty barrel was placed as a marker to warn motorist of an open manhole on
St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain. Authorities should treat this with a sense of urgency given high foot traffic and the
location's susceptibility to flash flooding.
PICTURE KERWIN PIERRE
Links Archive September 29th 2017 October 1st 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page