The US and British travel advisories posted this year on Tobago
have seriously affected the tourism industry on the island
according to Rene Seepersadsingh, president of the Tobago
Hotel and Tourism Association.
Last year, Tobago saw the highest number of touristsapproximately
55,000which more than doubled the 2000 figure of 25,000.
mainly affected the villa sector which is a large sector,
he said during an interview.
are still booking into hotels, but they question the safety
of the country.
On February 5, a British national was stabbed in the Lambeau
area after resisting a robbery.
Also in February, three British tourists relaxing by the pool
of their rented villa in Mt Irvine were attacked and robbed.
They were participants in an international pro-am golf tournament.
after the incident, the bookings went from 90 per cent to
zero per cent, he said.
chose simply not to come to the villas because they were not
In March, Telegraph Travel reported that the first three months
of this yearthe peak time for tourismsaw the worst
crime levels in the Caribbeans history.
Also in March 2006, the US and Britain updated travel advisories,
warning their citizens that it was dangerous to visit Tobago.
The latest British advisory, dated February 24, also noted
the inability of the Tobago authorities to apprehend
and prosecute the perpetrators is a serious concern. There
have been a number of serious robberies involving tourists
in recent years. Some were accompanied by violence, including
Seepersadsingh said any attack on a tourist is a serious concern,
but he believes they exaggerate the problem.
respect the prerogative of foreign countries to advise their
citizens of what they perceive as a risk, he said.
when we compare Tobago with a lot of other destinations, the
crime rate is very low, he said.
however, accept that we have shortcomings which need to be
addressed and we are working on that right now.
hope that we will be given the opportunity to prove ourselves
so that there will be a change in the advisories.
Only Monday, a Tobago policeman was attacked and relieved
of his firearm while on duty. Although a suspect was held
in connection with the incident, police were still in search
of the firearm up to Tuesday.
In 2005, Tobago police recorded ten murders, eight kidnappings,
35 rapes, three cases of serious indecency, 164 robberies,
493 house break-ins and seven serious assaults.
And in 2004, four murders, four kidnappings, 27 rapes, five
incidents of serious indecency, 92 robberies, 407 house break-ins
and six cases of indecent assault were recorded by police
Tourism bread and butter
The tourism industry of T&T now accounts for about 14
per cent of the countrys gross domestic product and
17 per cent of its employment, equivalent to about 96,000
In Tobago, that dependence upon tourism is significantly higher,
where tourism is estimated to account for almost half of the
islands GDP and 57 per cent of all employment.
statistics surprised many in our country as to the importance
of the tourism sector and reinforced the need for all of us,
together, to take our tourism industry that much more serious,
Howard Chin Lee, Minister of Tourism said Monday.
The statistics were published by the world renowned World
Travel and Tourism Council in a report prepared last year
He was speaking during a two-day workshop entitled Crisis
Communication for the Tourism Industry, at Cascadia Hotel.
Chin Lee said the tourism industry is perhaps one of the most
are almost no barriers preventing travel from one country
to another, he said.
because of the very nature of tourism, which is essentially
travel to a foreign location to enjoy new and different experiences,
the tourism industry of any country is built upon extremely
is built upon meeting the current needs of an increasingly
sophisticated and knowledgeable customer.
is built upon the confidence of these potential visitors that
they will be safe when they visit, that they will get value
for money, that they will not get sick and that they will
be treated properly.
The Tourism Minister said this confidence can take years to
establish and can be lost in a minute. He said crisis can
come in many shapes and forms and can impact a tourism industry
in many different ways including:
* Natural disasters
* Outbreak of diseases
* Fluctuations in the value of currency or changes in regulations
* Disruptions to air and sea service
* Terrorist attacks
* Upsurge in criminal activity
Since crime in Tobago has taken the spotlight a number of
initiatives have been announced by government to deal with
The most is that 19 of the 39 British police officers who
have been hired by the Government have been assigned to work
with police in Tobago to deal with the rising crime there.
Government is also introducing a 24-hour court on the island
to help deal with crimes against tourists, which now carry
a minimum sentence of five years hard labour.
Richardson Franklyn, adviser to National Security Minister
Martin Joseph, said the ministry is working with customs and
police at the ports to introduce scanners at ports of entry.
inventory was done and it was found that there is a dire need
to bring in a substantial amount of scanning machines and
walk through machines, he said.
of the scanning machines are visible to the public and the
others are behind the scenes. We have gotten together an entire
list of the needs for the points of entry, be it the seaports
and airports so that we will be better able to scan.
He said scanning machines are extremely expensive.
of the recent debate coming out of homeland security, one
of the challenges many ports in the United States face was
the expense of the scanning machine.
Franklyn said Tobago would also be the pilot country for the
Inter-American Tourism and Recreational Facility Security
ITRS is an initiative of a six-day conference held by the
Inter-American Committee against terrorism with the Organisation
of American States (OAS).
ITRS looks to enhance security and safety to visitors at tourism
and recreational resorts, he said.
He said the ITRS programme had three principal objectives:
* to strengthen the institutional capacity of the tourism
and recreational services sector in the region for sustainability
and global competitiveness;
* to disrupt the capacity of terrorist attacks on tourism
at recreational services sector in the region and;
* to build visitor confidence in the security and safety of
tourism and recreational services in the region.
He said to achieve the objective there would be three main
1. It entails security checks on deliveries to hotels, knowing
who is registering to the hotels. Were putting in place
a better system of proof of identification of folks who are
coming into hotels and also looking at who is coming unto
2. The security and infrastructure compliance code which looks
at the whole idea of installing CCTVs in the hotels. Also
to look at the perimeters of the hotel area and scan vehicles
entering the facility.
3. Certified and specialised training which involves working
with the owners and managers of hotels and having them understand
how to form relations and work with the police service. This
is critical in them understanding what their roles are in
the security of their hotels and recreation facilities.
gets community help
Richards, security adviser, Tobago House of Assembly, says
the government body is working on establishing a department
of public safety.
department intends to provide public safety support services,
Richards said officers attached to the department will wear
some type of uniform.
dont want to go with the traditional police orientation,
we want to introduce something new, but it is all in support
to the police, he said.
that department we are looking to provide marine support services
to divers should something go wrong, beach patrol, general
public safety support services in our cities and urban areas.
He said the THA is also mobilising the 5,000 Tobagonians to
be part of a social response to crime.
is a programme that is designed to work with both communities
and the law enforcement agencies aimed at enhancing their
relationships, he said.
are looking to have all our police officers on the island
through the ministry trained as community oriented police,
dubbed the essence of community oriented police. That is introducing
to the police the importance of tourism and building of a
He said a number of community activities have also been introduced
including a community safety competition.
are using the idea of the World Cup and challenging our communities
to keep a clean score sheet during the World Cup period and
they will be rewarded at a function after, he said.
is the problem
Dr David Beirman, international tourism and recovery specialist,
says Tobago does not have a crisis, but a problem of perception.
The Sydney-based speaker is frequently consulted by tourism
professionals, academics and the media on the field of managing
a wide range of crisis.
is a crime problem here in T&T as there are in many other
places in the world, he said during an interview.
does not necessarily have to be a crisis, it is a problem
that people can avoid.
He said the media and government travel advisories have resulted
in the perception that Tobago has a crisis problem because
advisories are becoming much more influential than they used
to be, he said.
the governments that issue them show that they care about
the citizens of their country and the media also uses them
and highlights them.
the US and UK highlight it in their government travel advisories
then people in those countries think thats a very, very
He said a method of talking to foreign governments without
anyone getting embarrassed in the process should be developed.
that when a government issues a travel advisory theyre
doing so on the basis of knowledge rather than talking it
from the media reports. Its not the medias fault
but people draw their own conclusions about the problem.
He said one way of changing the stigma attached to Tobago
is for someone of international standard to promote the island.
Richard Branson were to say that Tobago is a great island,
people would listen to him because of who he is, he
Beirman, who is the founding director of the Israel Tourism
Office Australasia and SW Pacific, said government needs to
needs to take a critical role, he said.
makes the difference on a great tourism recovery and a normal