Sunday, February 25, 2018

Govt lacking in tourism upgrades

 Although I am a San Fernan­dian, the Point Fortin Beach Resort is very dear to me, so I was very surprised and amazed, almost to the point of embarrassment, to see the Minister of Tourism, and by extension the Government, play such a prominent role in the ceremony for the completion and handing over of this facility.

In the first place, this project was initiated by Atlantic LNG to replace the original beach at Clif­ton Hill, which was destroyed by Atlantic LNG itself. It was intended for the use of locals like myself, who used to journey from San Fer­nando at least once a week to get a sea bath. We had to wait a long time before the new one was usable. Now, we hear from the minister of the value of the tourism dollar and lofty ideals of intermingling cultures and the need for management skills to run facilities such as these.

Wake-up call, Mr Minister: there is only one facility such as this and it’s the best in the country. The Government has never seen it fit to lead and build facilities such as this for our people, let alone visitors to this country. Other corporate entities should do like Atlan­tic LNG and build facilities for regional and municipal corporations. I’m not saying BP and Amoco never did anything, I’m saying much more needs to be done, especially by the Government.

We in San Fernando have lost our sea-bathing rights to development by the establishment of the fast ferry, with no proper replacement facilities to date. 

The minister went on to say, ‘The Govern­ment understands the value of the tourism dollar and continues to build the industry.” Well, I must be living in another country. The Government has nev­er needed or went after the tourism dollar, except for Carnival, because we have oil. If we didn’t have oil, we would be developed towards tourism like the other islands in the Lesser Antilles that have world-class hotels and facilities.

The Government has never addressed tourism infrastructure countrywide, either on its own or with regional and municipal corporations. If this Government now has an epiphany and the political will to do so, then I welcome it; it’s better late than never. Private, exclusive and luxury facilities now surpass Government’s efforts and now outnumber those that are open to the general public. Let’s turn this around for the benefit of our local people and, by extension, tourists and visitors.

Quaint and natural-looking sheds and booths should be constructed at minimal rent or rent-free for our local craftsmen and food preparers at major and other public beaches and resorts all over the country.

Right now, the Government is only paying lip-service to stakehol­ders and citizens. They are only riding piggyback on the private sector.

Joel Quintal 

San Fernando