The trinidad Guardian / Employees of the Tourism Development Company (TDC) say they are trying to wrap up to meet the 90-day deadline for closure of the company. “Those of us with projects are finishing up but there is a deep sense of despair and hopelessness,” they said yesterday.
Workers told the T&T Guardian they are not optimistic about the planned meeting between the Communication Workers Union (CWU), Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe and Labour Minister Jennifer Baptiste Primus, set for 10.30 am today.
It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the Tourism Minister and the union since she announced two weeks ago that the TDC will be dissolved.
But workers say they don’t expect much “because the Prime Minister himself has said that the decision to close the company was taken by the Cabinet, we don’t expect that will change.”
The closure of the TDC follows concerns raised by the Government about the company which Government felt was doing a poor job in marketing T&T as a tourism destination.
Tourism consultant Cecil Miller was mandated by the Government to look at among other things the structure of the TDC, product development, and the critical issue of airlift.
Workers who spoke with the T&T Guardian confirmed that Miller held discussions with managers last year in preparing his report which was submitted to the Government.
Cudjoe had justified the review saying on assuming office she had made startling revelations about wild expenditure and poor management at the TDC.
In June 2016 in an interview, Cudjoe had expressed concerns about the amount of money spent on overseas trips saying, “tourism conferences could take place every two weeks somewhere and it is very easy to find a reason to go. But in this day and age you have to learn to utilise technology and you have to prioritise what conferences and trade shows you go to.”
Former tourism minister Gerald Hadeed told the T&T Guardian that “it was only a matter of time before Tobago seceded from Trinidad in the tourism sector.” Hadeed said “it was long in coming. There was duplication of resources because Tobago never wanted Trinidad to have anything to do with marketing Tobago.”
He said it all started in the “2010-2011 period and when I was appointed as Minister in 2013 it was a mess to try and get them to deal and come to the table to talk.”
The decision to close the TDC he said, “is an indication that the THA has won out, and that has cost a lot of jobs for Trinidadians.”
The former minister admitted to having a “non-existent” relationship with then Secretary for Tourism in the THA, Tracey Davidson Celestine. He said there were “fights between the ministry and the Tobago House of Assembly where they wanted to do their own promotion and development. We opened our doors to the THA but they had their own agenda.”
Hadeed spoke of “clashes at international tourism events where Tobago insisted that they set up a booth separate to Trinidad and give out material that said Tobago, nothing about Trinidad.”
According to Hadeed, “The THA would have their people at conferences in the United States, Canada, Germany, wherever we were invited and set up their own booth, it was a sore point with the Ministry, because we never thought it was right for them to be duplicating what we were doing , it is one country Trinidad and Tobago, but they did not see it that way.”
Hadeed said, “It was a source of embarassment that as one country we appeared always at these to be seperate states.”
He said, “The only time Tobago tourism became Trinidad business was when they murdered the German tourist and I had to face the music along with the Commissioner to talk to the international media.”
Hadeed said when he attended international tourism conferences “as Minister me and the official team would sit at the front, but the THA team going as a team from Tobago sat in the back, they did not want Trinidad to represent them.”
Hadeed accused Cudjoe of “acting in the interest of the THA but being clueless about what is needed to take tourism forward. She is the worst tourism minister this country has ever seen,” he said.
The former tourism minister described the TDC as an “erstwhile company with many good employees, but it is the board which is going in the wrong direction, they are not focused.” Hadeed is hoping that the promise to “try and find employment for those who are displaced will not be an empty one.”