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Tourism Ministry Brings Experience TCI To Watersports Operators

Wesley Clerveaux, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism addressed watersports and marine tour operators on Thursday night.

Partnership and collaboration were the main themes on Thursday night during a consultation with Experience Turks and Caicos, the Department of Tourism Regulations and watersports and marine tour operators.

The lively and engaging meeting was held to give the operators an opportunity to learn about TIDES (Together Individuals Delivering Excellent Service) programme.

The Department of Fisheries and Marine Resource Management was also present to give insight into the economic benefits of bone fishing as a tourism product.

Wesley Clerveaux, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism chaired the meeting which was held at the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR).

He expressed hope for a closer relationship between the operators, Experience Turks and Caicos and the Department of Tourism Regulations (DTR) not only to enhance their product offering but to assist the stakeholders in marketing the destination and the services of the small businesses in the sector.

Experience Turks and Caicos’ mandate is to ensure that all the people of the Turks and Caicos benefit from the economic prosperity the tourism industry offers.

As such, unlike the former tourist board, Experience Turks and Caicos will invite all stakeholders to partner with them, to travel with them and to be part of the team to market not only the destination and accommodations but also products such as tours which visitors can enjoy.

Collaboration, Clerveaux said, is key to establishing standards for the various water sports industries, supporting small businesses to meet these standards and marketing these small businesses.

The tour operators were given an overview of the TIDES programme, through which standardised training is being conducted with all stakeholders.

Sasha Arthur, Regulations Development Specialist at the Department of Tourism Regulations, gave an overview to the operators.

They were told that the TIDES certification would last two years and cost $50, and that operators who have done the training before would only be required to participate in the class to get a renewal. Those who have never done the training would be required to pass an examination.

Those who have reading and writing challenges would be allowed to do an oral exam.

Participants called for the programme to be extended to the sister islands and were told that training recently concluded in Grand Turk and will soon expand.

The second half of the meeting comprised a presentation on bone fishing for sport which generated lively discussion from the operators about the state of the industry.

In her presentation, Kathy Lockhart, Director of Fisheries, said bone fishing as a sport could earn millions of dollars for the country as one fish caught for recreation (catch and release) could earn the country $829 a day as opposed to one fish captured for consumption which only reaps five dollars.

She showed how lucrative the industry is in countries such as Belize where the industry earned an estimated US$50 million in 2014 and in the Bahamas where it earned an estimated $14 million in 2010. Florida estimates one billion dollars annually from bonefish tourism.

The economic benefits of bone fishing as a sport include growth and diversification for local fishermen and operators, and growth of ancillary spending in restaurants, souvenir shops auto rentals and Airbnbs.

Recommended policies to develop the industry include financial support for the upgrade of fishing equipment, vessels, and marketing, the development of marketing campaigns to promote sport fishing and the involvement of islanders and local community members in discussions and decision-making processes.

There were several suggestions from participants on ways to boost the industry such as the creation of specific zones for jet ski operators.

Clerveaux said while bone fishing is part of the culture, mass fishing is detrimental to the fish stock and luxury anglers are likely to go where there is a high volume of fish.

Stakeholder consultations are expected to continue in the coming weeks.


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