“One step forward; two steps backward” are phrases of a famous 1976 song by Max Romeo and The Upsetters meaning that while progress is being made in one area, there is regression in a related part of an effort to achieve an outstanding goal. Unfortunately, it seems to apply to many different aspects of our country’s progress. Most recently, it was displayed in the continuing attempt by the tourism officials in Tobago and Trinidad to encourage cruise ship industry operators to fit the island into a permanent place along the chain of stops in the Caribbean.
A large tourist ship arrives loaded with people eager to get a feel of an island society, having spent a significant part of their savings, and we should not think of every tourist being a millionaire with loads of money to expend, but instead, are denied the experience at the destination. These people, who have saved for an adventure of their lives to be able to see and experience what was promised to them, found themselves moored at the harbour, maxi taxi drivers having decided to stay away, in part because they had not been paid for services previously to other groups of tourists.
This group of cruise visitors will not be interested, and rightly so, as to where the fault and responsibility lie for the failure of having maxis to take them around the island. What they know is that they have not been able to realise what they paid for, and that to them is unforgivable. They have friends and relatives whom they will tell of this experience in Tobago, and that will be an influential factor in where other groups choose as destination stops for their cruises.
Coming after the event, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, whose administration has responsibility for the growth and development of tourism on the island, blasted the drivers for not making it known early on that they were not going to turn up on the day to give the tourists a feel of the island culture, hospitality and sights.
For his response, cruise line operator Charles Carvalho acknowledged the debt owed to the drivers, insisting that the debt, said to be $80,000 by the Tobago Taxi Drivers’ Association, will be paid. Such statements after the fact of failing to make the payments and/or negotiating a solid timeframe for payment, may seem hollow to the maxi taxi drivers and owners.
The reality is that the drivers are people of small capital, whose operations are not able to take the kind of beating which non-payment for their work causes; it affects their day-to-day business. Tobago Taxi Drivers’ Association head Clyde Williams also spoke to the severe shortages in the transport industry on the island, which does not account for what happened on the day either.
What is clear from the positions adopted and statements made by the various individuals and institutions they head is the lack of coordination, honest collaboration, and trust, based on performance amongst the groups for this vital part of the tourism industry. It is even more unforgivable when, both at the central government and the THA levels, the development of tourism on the island consistently remains the outstanding area for achievement.