THE $200 million loss in tourism revenue that Trinidad and Tobago suffers annually due to crime is a "conservative estimate", industry experts said yesterday.
"I am absolutely convinced it is costing the country a huge amount of money. I think $200 million is conservative because that is just lost opportunity through fears of crime, but I would imagine it would cost businesses more in crime prevention practices," Tobago Hotel and Restaurant Association president Nicholas Hardwicke told the Express yesterday in a telephone interview.
At the Caricom Inter-Sessional meeting on strengthening regional crime and security in Haiti on Monday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad and Tobago loses an estimated US$35 million a year in tourism revenue because of crime.
Hardwicke said that, for his small business, he spent close to $20,000 a month on security personnel.
That does not include other protection like burglar-proofing and security cameras.
"So imagine what it would cost a big business like a hotel," he said.
Trinidad Hotel and Restaurant Association president Hassel Thom said there was "some validity" to the Prime Minister's statements that crime affected tourism, but in terms of quantifying the impact, that was still to be determined.
"Crime is not a new issue, but it is good that heads of state are looking into it as a true negative impact on the entire region. The fact that they've decided to start to quantify the loss is a step in the right direction. They would not have done it in the past. It means that they are hoping tourism will become a serious player because it is one of the strongest areas for diversification of the country," he said.
He added that "a lot more work needs to be done" and not just lip service.
"Maybe they need to employ different strategies, but coming from the Prime Minister, she is serious and trying to encourage other Caribbean leaders to do the same; (a regional approach) will be stronger than individually," he said.
Hardwicke said the key was crime management.
"What is really important is how we deal with it, and how we respond to victims and put in place measures that make certain crimes less likely," he said.
He said the "bad old days of crime" in Tobago five or six years ago have passed because of a more focused, tourism-sensitive police approach, although he said the high rates of crime in Trinidad affected confidence in Tobago by association. —Carla Bridglal