We do not have oil, gold, bauxite or gas but Grace Bay Beach on the Island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos is considered to be the best Beach in the World. Almost every year for the past couple of years, Grace Bay Beach was selected by guests, travel agents and international media outlets as the best Beach in the World. We cannot and should not take this for lightly.
With that said, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Ministry of Tourism headed by Hon. Ralph Higgs, the Tourist Board headed by Mr. Ramon Andrews and chaired by Mr. Norman Hamilton and the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association headed by Stacy Cox for the various activities during the entire month of November and for their efforts in promoting, protecting and maintaining our main industry.
While November is the Tourism Awareness Month celebrations, all of us need to play our part in ensuring that tourism matters every day as it is our Bread and Butter.
Our Bread and Butter
In 2017, there were 1,243,843 visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Of the 1,243, 843 visitors, 416,434 arrived by plane while 827,409 arrived by cruise.
In 2016, there were 1,300,575 visitors. Of this amount, 453,612 arrived by plane while 846,943 arrived by cruise.
As a result of these visitors, the Government was able to generate accommodation tax of $59,152,185 for the year ended March 31, 2018 while the accommodation tax for the year ended March 31, 2017 was $61,544,345. In addition, the Airport Authorities overall revenue estimate for March 31, 2018 was $39,015,091. Of this amount, $14, 226,182 was departure tax. Therefore almost $100m is generated directly from Tourism.
Based on the national skills audit, 31% of the employment in TCI is in the accommodation and food service activities. The total labour force is 15,279.
Of course, there are other areas that benefit from tourism such as the creation of new jobs for customs and immigration officers at the airport and cruise port to accommodate the visitors.
Serve and Treat Our Visitors Well
While many of us are fighting and arguing over service charge, please ensure that we serve our visitors with the exceptional customer service from the time they arrive at the airport or cruise center to the time they leave. Treat them so well that the Turks and Caicos will be the only place that they will want to vacation. How can we treat them well? Be Polite, friendly and smile all the time with our visitors. Do not Rob them physically or with the overpricing of your products and services. Do not Harass Them. If they want something, they will find you. Do not Mislead them with your advertisement. Follow up and respond to their requests promptly. If they row you, don’t row them back. I am by no means suggesting that you treat the visitors as Gods but simply treat them with respect. Yes some of us receive bad treatment when travelling abroad but it does not mean we should do the same to others.
Maintain Our Beaches from pollution
Our Beaches are our greatest natural resource. However, too many times we leave trash at the beaches which is an eyesore not only for tourist but all of us. No one wants to go to a dirty beach. Do not leave trash at the beach and if you see trash at the beach, do your part by removing them. If you see someone doing it, report them as there are fines for littering.
Keep our islands clean
Not only are people littering the beach, some are littering the highways and the streets. This is a turn off to tourists. I remember a friend of mine visited an island in the Caribbean and I asked them how they like that island. The response was the island was too dirty and they do not want to go back. This can happen to us too. We cannot afford to lose this industry.
Protect our coral reefs
TCI is home to one of the longest reefs in world. While do not have much land-based activities in TCI, our activities for tourists are focused on water based involving the viewing of our coral reefs Therefore, we must ensure that we protect our reefs. There is a foundation call Turks and Caicos Reef Fund. You can do your part by donating to this fund whose objective is to preserve and protect the environment. You can also do your part by ensuring you do not destroy our reefs either through overfishing or through the use of cyanide which poisons the reef.
One of the priority lists of any tourist is that the destination is safe. While our destination is safer compare to others, we must ensure that we have an aggressive plan of action not only to reduce crimes but to solve the crimes that take place.
Do not take our Bread and Butter for Granted. Do not take the selection of our beach as #1 for granted. Visitors have choices. They do not have to come to Turks and Caicos Islands. How many of us remember what it was like growing up? We did not have much and now that we have something, we seem to be taking things for granted. Clean up when you leave the Beach. Be friendly and polite. We must protect and maintain our bread and butter.