|Tourism promotion overhaul heads to Consultative Forum||| Print ||
|Thursday, 21 October 2010 12:24|
A bill aimed at reorganizing the way the Turks and Caicos Islands are marketed on the world stage will go before the Consultative Forum at their next meeting Nov. 8.
The Tourism Working Group, appointed by the governor in 2009, released their candid 29-page report in July, recommending that the TCI must take radical measures to reduce crime, make it cheaper to fly to the islands, and improve the immigration service if the country is to protect and grow its most important source of income.
After meeting with more than 300 individuals from the TCI and abroad, the group decided that the best approach to marketing the country should include all stakeholders, encourage the community to become involved in tourism and promote all the islands.
To get the job done, the group recommended the creation of a new Tourism Authority, which would be run by seasoned sales and marketing professionals chosen by a board of directors including eight from the private sector and four from government.
The current Tourist Board would then be responsible only for managing a programme for enhancing awareness and educating the population on tourism. In that role, the board should be renamed the Tourism Regulatory Board or absorbed into the Tourism Ministry, the group said.
To fund the new authority, the current 11 percent accommodations tax would be split — the authority would get 2 percent for operations and the government would get 9 percent.
Under the group’s proposal, the authority would have 14 employees the first year and add seven more by the third year, with total salaries and benefits of $1.3 million in a total budget of about $4 million. The Tourist Board’s budget had climbed to nearly $15 million in 2007-08.
It is this recommendation that has caused some controversy in the community, group Chairman Clive Stanbrook told the business community at an extraordinary meeting of the Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 18, hosted in the conference facilities at the Veranda Resort.
The People’s Democratic Movement party opposes the group’s plan, pointing out that the Tourism Board was doing a good job until 2003 while the government was under PDM control.
“We believe the (Tourism Working Group) means well and thank them for the work they have done, however to make drastic recommendations to eliminate the Tourist Board and basically privatize an important government function that is responsible for our number one industry for growing our country is unacceptable,” the PDM said in a statement Aug. 26.
Click HERE to read the working group’s report.
Several members of the Tourism Working Group, including Stanbrook, Mark Durliat, Clayton Thomas, Art Pickering and Kingsley Been, presented their recommendations to the business community in order to combat the misconception that the Tourism Authority is going to be privatized. “We are not inventing a new wheel, but rather just changing a few spokes,” Thomas explained.
The group said its objective was to find a way of ensuring the private sector worked together with the public sector in such a way as to produce the best possible result for the country.
“Effectively what we are recommending is that there be a body in which the government and the private sector would operate as equal partners,” Stanbrook said.
PDM Party leader Doug Parnell was in attendance during the Chamber meeting to voice concerns, including the proposed method of selecting the Tourism Authority’s board.
Businesses holding tourism business permits would select eight private sector members — three directors from the hotel industry, two from islands other than Provo, one from Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos, and one from the remaining Caicos Islands.
Four ex officio government members would be the Permanent Secretary for Tourism, Trade and Industry; the Permanent Secretary for Border Control; the CEO of the Airport Authority; and the Director of Culture.
“I think what you are trying to accomplish is to have some form of accountability at the board level,” Parnell said, but believes a key element is being overlooked. Parnell suggested a board member appointed by the opposition ‘who has a real interest to make sure there is accountability’ is missing as a form of checks and balances. He encouraged the group take a second look at how the National Health Insurance Board was appointed as a good example of how it could be structured more effectively.
In addition to the change in structure, the group also recommends a change in strategy to how the destination is marketed. The group says the message they received across the board from stakeholders was a fresh approach that offered a more inclusive “whole” approach was needed.
“So often the promotion of tourism has focused on the sale of land or condos and just hotels,” Stanbrook explained, “whereas the broader picture of what this country offers is often more attractive than an over concentration on the sale of condos, for example.”
The more inclusive approach is better for everyone, he said. This also includes a new strategy that promotes all the islands or the country as a group of islands.
“We felt Provo is more attractive as an archipelago of islands, than it is just as an island on its own. Not only would the other islands benefit, but Provo would also benefit.”
Stanbrook pointed out that there is currently no promotion of the other islands at the Provo airport, the main entry point into the country. The group recommends that should be changed.
Stanbrook reiterated the other important issues of education and fostering of culture and heritage, protection of the environment and ecotourism. “Not enough is being done to make sure that we look after these priceless assets we have,” he said.
“The whole future of this country depends on our ability to put our best foot forward towards the tourists and toward tourism,” Stanbrook said. “So it is absolutely crucial we put aside all the temptations to become political on the subject in order to concentrate on all of us on making sure we get the best result. That is the position of every single one of the members of the working group.”
Been said that once the Consultative Forum considers the proposals and makes its recommendations, the matter could go to the governor for his consideration and approval.
When the plan is approved, the working group has already made suggestions to the governor on how to fast track the process to establish the necessary protocols and personnel, Durliat said.
Click HERE to read the working group’s report.
Click HERE to read the PDM’s statement.
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