DAYS before the new board of Tourism Trinidad Ltd (TTL) was reconstituted through the dismissal of the previous board and its chairman Janelle “Penny” Commissiong, the board reportedly held what has been described in press reports as a ten-hour meeting.
Since the whole matter of the TTL’s dismissal of its CEO emerged, much time, attention and commentary have been devoted to the relevant issues, some of this genuine, some speculative – all of it an incredible waste of time and resources.
Imagine what could have been achieved had all of the energy that has gone into this confusion been focused on improving the viability of the tourism industry. Imagine how much work could have been done in ten hours.
This matter should not have come this far. The whole matter does not do the TTL any good, nor does it in any way help tourism. There remains a lot of uncertainty over the factual background with reports and counterclaims being made. Undoubtedly all of the parties will also seek to exercise their legal rights and to have their day in court. As the entire story continues to be ventilated, however, what is clear is there is now a change.
The appointment of Howard Chin Lee as the new chairman returns to the forefront a figure who is no stranger to the hospitality industry. Chin Lee was chairman of the Tourism Industrial Development Company from 1982 to 1995 and the National Carnival Commission from 2007 to 2010. He is also a former senator, serving as national security minister in 2002-2003 and tourism minister from 2003 to 2007.
Chin Lee brings a wealth of experience from the private sector, most recently from his roles at Synergy TV and Pier 1. In relation to the latter, he was central to a redefinition of the use of the western peninsula as a site for leisure and tourist activity, something that is worth remembering when it comes to assessing what he brings to his new role. We wish him best of luck but note that he is well equipped to rely not on luck but solid experience in making a difference in the sector.
That said, it is unfortunate that the TTL and the Ministry of Tourism were unable to resolve this matter in a speedier manner and without having to change the guard. Be that as it may, all stakeholders must hit the ground running to give tourism the boost that it needs.
Focusing on occupancy rates and infrastructure, as Chin Lee has suggested, are good places to start. It is a shame, however, that so much time and effort has been wasted on matters that really have not advanced this industry which is a crucial, sensitive, and important part of the thrust for diversification.