Tourism minister Joseph Ross says Queen Elizabeth II's arrival to T&T augurs well for the country's international image. He said about 4,000 visitors are expected here. The Queen, 83, who is the Head of the Commonwealth, is in town for a State visit, will open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at the Academy for the Performing Arts today. She is accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, 88, the Duke of Edinburgh and an entourage. Her last stop in the Caribbean was in Bermuda. Critical issues, such as climate change, ahead of the major United Nations meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, are expected to be discussed. Ross said: "We cannot put a price on the Queen's visit. This is her third (to this country). It is an invaluable advertisement for the country. If we were to put a price tag on it, we cannot.
A small country is hosting such a big event and the Queen. "The hotels are full. The city is buzzing. It is a success story," added Ross. To date, Ross said, even the airport was spruced up, and use was made of the south terminal in time for the major symposium. Apart from the much anticipated visit of the British royals, he also said a tourism bureau had been set up in the IFC Building, adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Hotel. "A lot of people are expressing interest in hosting conferences and learning more about T&T." The cricket museum, which was opened on Wednesday night at Queen's Park Oval, also came in for tremendous kudos from connoisseurs of the "beautiful game".
All eyes were locked upon the British Airways plane when it landed on the tarmac at Piarco International Airport. Media personnel descended a flight of stairs at the back of the plane. Then, the door opened. Decked in a green hat, complemented by a mint green dress, the Queen appeared at the top of the stairs. She wore black shoes. A rope of white pearls and a brooch enhanced her elegant appearance. With her spouse in tow, she proceeded to descend daintily. There to meet her were President George Maxwell Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards; Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his wife Local Government Hazel Manning; and Chief of Defence Staff Edmund Dillon and other dignitaries.
Moving along on the red carpet, she proceeded to mount the podium. The National Anthem was played. The British Anthem was played. Then, she inspected the Guard of Honour. After, she shook hands with members of the Cabinet. A 21-gun salute was heard to the right of the tarmac. When the queen was whisked away, the Marching Band and Edwin Pouchet's Silver Stars Steel Orchestra continued playing. School children from nearby Arouca and St Helena Schools waved T&T and British flags. Since 1976, she was no longer recognised as Head of State of T&T after it became a republic. She is still recognised as Queen of 16 sovereign states, including Caribbean countries like Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda.