However, the employees should be dealt with in tandem with the new organization.
According to online sources, The Tourist Board was established in 1970 with Hon. Norman Saunders as the Executive Chairman. Other members of the Board were Hubert James, Clifford Jones, Darthney James and Cecelia DaCosta. The Tourist Board was set up so that tourism can be promoted and developed as an industry for the Turks and Caicos Islands. I believe up to this date, the mission of the Board remains the same.
First, I believe that all statutory bodies and government departments need restructuring. However, many leaders do not want to touch this because restructuring is unpopular and may involve the termination or redundancy of some employees. Under the previous administration, money was spent to review the statutory bodies and there were some unpopular recommendations, but I don’t think anything was done with the recommendations. As I recalled one of the recommendations was to dissolve the Tourist Board and move its functions to the Ministry of Tourism
I do not know the right solution for the promotion and marketing of tourism for TCI but I do not think the Tourist Board is fulfilling its purpose and so I agree that the Tourist Board needs restructuring. However, what I don’t agree with is the human resources element. I think the Government should have had the new organization established simultaneously while the existing structure is still in place so that the recruitment process could start so that if any of the existing Tourist Board staff are successful with the new organization, they would know their job fate rather than facing this uncertainty of unemployment.
The Tourist Board is not the main force driving the growth.
While it is true that tourism numbers continue to grow, we cannot and should not give all the credit to Tourist Board. Marketing is one of the factors that drives growth and effective marketing requires significant expenditure. The Tourist Board is not funded adequately to drive growth and maybe that is the problem with the Board. Maybe the Board is underfunded.
In 2020/21, the Government’s subvention to the Tourist Board was $2,940,834. In 2021/22, the subvention was $2,685, 835 and the budget for 2022/23 is also $2,685,835. A significant amount of the subvention is spent on employment costs. In 2020/21, employment costs were $1,04,585, in 2021/22 it was $922,673 and the budget for 2022/23 was $1,162,259.
The employment costs were more than the advertising and promotion line items in the budget. In 2020/21, the advertising and promotion was $758,825. In 2021/22, it was $931,109 and the budget for 2022/23 was $706,340. How could this amount of money be responsible for the growth of tourism in the Turks and Caicos? No wonder the consultant who did the review of the statutory bodies recommended moving the Tourist Board into the ministry.
What is driving the numbers?
Whether we want to admit it or not, the private sector is driving the numbers particularly Beaches/Sandals Resort. They spent millions of dollars on marketing their properties and in so doing they are promoting the Turks and Caicos Islands. As a result, all the other hotels, villas and restaurants are benefiting. Of course, some of the other hotels are also spending more money on marketing than what the Tourist Board was spending.
The only time I remember the Tourist Board spending millions of dollars on marketing was during the Hon. Mike Misick’s reign. Now whether we got value for our money, I don’t know but the point I am making is that the Tourist Board was on par or exceeded the private sector when it came to marketing the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Destination Management Organization (DMO)
It has been more than a year now since this Government has informed us of its intention to replace the Tourist Board with two new organization called Destination Management Organization and the Tourism Regulatory Authority.
My understanding is that the DMO will not be a statutory body but rather an entity funded by both the Government and the Private Sector which I believe is like the intention of TCI Finance and the former CED. (TCI Finance is an entity to promote offshore finance and is funded primarily by TCIG and the Private Sector is expected to contribute a portion of the funds. The Board comprises of various stakeholders and then the CEO reports to the Board. The chairman of the Board is Hon. E Jay Saunders)
I also understand that the DMO will have more than 40 employees and they will offices in all the inhabited islands in the Turks and Caicos.
Even though the Government has talked about this new structure for more than a year, the Government has not done a good job in explaining this new entity to the public including the staff of the Tourist Board. I don’t know if this entity will work but I know what we have now is not working and as I have said before, maybe it is because Tourist Board needs more money and a strategy to promote the Turks and Caicos.
My concern is how do we know if the private sector will contribute to this entity. I know when I was a part of CED (Centre for Entrepreneurial Development), it was also supposed to be a private public partnership but there was very little support from the private sector as they claimed it was a Government entity and the Government has money. As a result, the Government basically funded the entire organization.
Perhaps the DMO maybe different since tourism is our main industry and everybody should benefit if they pool their marketing funds. However, if the Government is providing most of the funding, the Government must ensure that the entity is directed and working according to their objectives and policies of the Government. The Government should also ensure that they play a significant role in the appointment of Board members who in turn will recruit someone to head the organization that is effective and has the Turks and Caicos at heart.
Finally, I don’t think the employees should have to wait until June to leave their posts. I think they should be allowed to get their redundancy package any time after they were given their notice just in case they were able to secure jobs elsewhere. I will repeat again what I mentioned in the introduction, the list of available jobs with the DMO should have been announced the same time as the notice were given so that the employees can applied and see if they were successful.
If we are giving the Tourist Board credit for the increase in tourism numbers and we are fighting over who should and shouldn’t be involve in the marketing, aren’t we marketing for these private individuals and companies. After all, The Government does not own any hotels nor do any Turks and Caicos Islanders own any hotels. The hotels and the villas are privately owned.
Marketing is done to encourage people to come to the Turks and Caicos Islands and when they come, where will they stay. They are going to stay in these same hotels and villas that are privately owned. Because this is the case, then maybe everybody should come together and pool their marketing money and ideas rather than everybody going their separate ways with their own marketing plans.
With that said, I think our overall focus should be ensuring that Turks and Caicos Islanders are involve in the ownership of hotels. It should not be about the loss of jobs in the Tourist Board especially if the DMO will have more than 40 jobs. Of course, I don’t want anyone to be unemployed and that is why I said the employees should have known by now whether they will be successful with the DMO.