First of all, I do believe that a bill for the beach and coastal vending is needed as there are too many disorderly activities taking place on the beach. Our main industry is tourism which is responsible for more than 90% of our GDP and whether we like it or not, we must ensure that our industry is enhanced and protected which in turn will encouraged more tourists to come to our shores to enjoy themselves on the Beaches without being harassed. There are too many people that are harassing guests on the beach. Some of these individuals do not even have a business licence but is earning money by operating business illegally on the beach.
Therefore, legislation must be put in place as we don’t want our country to be like Wild Wild West. However, whenever any legislation is put forward, it must be clear and balanced. While we need to protect our tourism industry, we also need to ensure that our people are not disenfranchised.
This article will cover the pros and cons of the Proposed Bill.
- The Bill requires the establishment of a Beach Vending Committee. This Committee will be responsible for the overseeing the beach and coastal vending activities. The Committee will also be responsible for the issuance of licenses and the suspension and revocation of licenses. I think that is great that there is a dedicated committee dealing with this because Beach and Coastal Vending is an opportunity for the locals to participate and benefit greatly from this lucrative and growing tourism industry.
- It is alleged that people are operating on the beach without a license. Anyone operating a business in the Turks and Caicos must have a license and this bill lists the requirements for a beach vendor license in addition to a regular business licence.
- Proof of immigration status with the right to work for all employees is required as part of the application for license. I think this is a good thing as there are allegations that there are illegals working for some of these businesses, not just the beach vendors but other businesses too.
- There is provision in the Bill to revoke a license. Hopefully vendors will be keen to follow the rules so that their licenses are not revoked.
- The bill provides for the establishment of a Beach Patrol Unit. The establishment of Beach Patrol Unit will deter people from operating illegally on the beach. These Beach Patrol Units must be on the Beach frequently and consistently.
- Vendors must wear uniforms and identification cards. I am in the Hospitality Industry and from time to time guests informed me how they were approached by vendors on the Beach but there was no identification of the individuals. While this may be an added expense for vendors, it provides security and trust to the tourists. As a result more tourists will used the vendors and the vendors will be able to make more money.
- While the proposed bill is for Beach and Coastal Vending, clause 14 is ambiguous and it looks like it applies to all persons. Clause 14 states “a person shall not conduct any special event on any beach or costal without a permit.” If the intent of the bill is for commercial use or for vendors, then Clause 14 needs should specifically state that. Furthermore, if the bill is for Beach and Coastal Vending, then why is section 14 and 16 in the bill when these special events are not Beach and Coastal Vending activities. This clause can be misinterpreted and disenfranchised the residents from using the Beach for their personal use and personal special events.
- One of the criteria in considering an application is the impact on neighbouring properties including noise. This can be a pro and a con. Pro in the sense that noise and smell can disrupt the neighbouring properties, however, this can be a con as it can be very subjective. Furthermore, why doesn’t the bill cover noise, smell and smoke from the neighbouring properties because they can also impact the vendors.
- The requirements for a vendor licence requires the applicant to have a valid business licence in the category for which the vending activity is sought. If that is the case, then the fees for vending activities should be minimal. However, I think the fees for vending activities are high especially if the applicant is paying for a regular business licence.
- The penalties in the Bill are low and may not be deterrent.
Order and Regularity of activities must be in place not just for the beach vendors but for all activities. However, some of the challenges we faced are enforcement. Therefore, I am pleased that the bill has provision for Beach Patrol Units. However, the bill must be reworded regarding persons holding special events. While control must be in place, this interpretation can be used against the residents enjoying the use of the Beach for their personal events.