Scandalous tourism gaffe

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine - David Reid
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine - David Reid

TOBAGO was ranked last week among the top islands in the world for tourists by a travel magazine, but there was little evidence of that on Saturday for 300 cruise-ship passengers left stranded in Scarborough when tour transport did not turn up.

Farley Augustine, Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, this month led a delegation all the way to the UK to promote Tobago. But clearly there are basic matters at home he needs to address.

Tashia Burris, the official in Mr Augustine’s administration charged with overseeing tourism, on Saturday issued a letter of apology to the stranded passengers.

If ever there was a moment when sorry simply was not good enough, this was it. The time taken to draft, type and print out that meaningless paperwork would have been better spent putting alternative arrangements in place.

It is hard to understand how this commess occurred. This was the very first cruise-ship arrival for the season, one for which Tobago officials have been preparing for some time, projecting almost twice the usual number of arrivals.

The absence of maxi taxis has been linked to industrial action. Mr Augustine has said there was a problem with payments at the onset of the covid19 pandemic. If so, his administration should have been aware of this long before Saturday.

Even if there was no warning, there is no reason why contingency measures were not in place, which is best practice. For instance, could idle buses from the Public Transport Service Corporation been commandeered?

In both Tobago and Trinidad, it seems we are not getting any better in terms of how we treat tourists.

In Trinidad, such passengers were this week left to wander around the immediate environs of Port of Spain’s Cruise Ship Complex, which, it is safe to say, is not the capital city at its most flattering, waterfront notwithstanding.

Many might not know that within easy reach were historic attractions such as Woodford Square and the surrounding buildings, such as the Red House; the Magnificent Seven; and the Botanic Gardens. There is no reason why insightful guided tours cannot be offered to them through partnership with bodies like the National Trust.

Meanwhile, the cruise season coincides with our annual rains. There should therefore also be options for indoor activities. These tourists could be easily treated to a brief but well-designed stage presentation incorporating mas, music and all the elements our culture has to offer.

What is the National Academy for the Performing Arts, also nearby, for? The costs of regularly mounting such a production would be easily worth it in the long run, given the value that would be added to our capital city as a destination in the eyes of these visitors.


"Scandalous tourism gaffe"

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