The recent termination of the CEO of Tourism Trinidad Limited is indicative of a wider systemic failure being experienced in every institution in the country. It brings into focus the unreadiness of this current administration to do the job for which they applied. Under the stewardship of Dr. Rowley, we have burned down former TDC, created 2 new companies and the tourist arrivals continue on a downward spiral. After 45 months, the decline in arrivals has not even levelled off while arrivals in the region move in the opposite direction.
Who will have the confidence to take on the responsibility of leading a company in which the Chairman fired her selection for CEO after 6 months; the Minister is “awaiting information” and leaked Board papers suggest that the CEO acted on her own volition and there is infighting amongst board members?
Clear, strong strategic direction must be taken immediately to begin the process of stabilizing the Tourism sector. There are no quick fixes for the systemic failure of tourism in Trinidad and Tobago and whatever is done now needs a 6 – 9 month period before any results are seen. In the short term whomever is left on the Board should urgently recommend the implementation of the Trinidad Tourism Sector Development Tourism Road Map 2016-2020 – Policy Proposal. This will be a short-term measure while the Tourism Master Plan of 1995 is upgraded and modernized in keeping with current day trends.
A second action which can be taken is to appoint an interim action team comprising representatives from the tourism stakeholders to implement the top 5 priority actions which might stabilize the Sector. These persons should be on short term contract and be given KPIs and deliverables tied to their remuneration.
Simultaneously, it is necessary to continue to build the new TTL according to its mandate and byelaws. I disagreed with the closure of former TDC because the closure strategy has failed time and again in Trinidad and Tobago. What is needed is transformative change to fix our institutions and for the Politicians to STOP trying to use State Enterprises and other Institutions to advance their myopic political agenda.
The Tourism Sector will not thrive under a heavy-handed government either PNM or UNC. As visitors move along the tourism value chain, they interact with almost all sectors of the society and their experience is directly impacted by all sectors. For Tourism to work there must be complete collaboration – from entry systems at the ports of entry to every other point of hand-off until the visitor leaves the country or moves on to the next destination. If people understood the direct relationship between their income and the product or service they offer, they would be energized to give of their best but nobody is explaining that to the Immigration Officer, the Taxi Driver, the Tour Guide etc.
The current situation is that the Sector is in shambles and there are small and medium sized businesses which continue to suffer daily. They are the ones who must demand clear, decisive actions because they stand to lose the most. Like many other things in this country, the sector is “fixable” but it requires leadership which is even-handed and focussed on a long term result. We cannot continue to look at the election cycle because that is what has caused the perpetual mis-management, waste and corruption. For our nation to thrive we must be looking at a 50-to-100 year strategy which will build institutions which are robust and able to withstand the vagaries of modern day living.
The World Tourism Organisation projects international tourist arrivals to the Caribbean to increase by 2.2% a year to 25 million in 2020. Trinidad and Tobago must carve out the section of that growth we are going after and place a laser like focus on how we are going to get the market share. Without a clearly articulated vision, we are guaranteed to get to continue along this current path to underdevelopment.