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CWC – Visa solutions

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2.FEB.07
Editor: For years now, I have maintained that the two best things to recently happen to the Caribbean are CSME (Caricom Single Market & Economy) and the Cricket World Cup 2007.

Every now and again, we humans need “something hard” to make us stop and take stock and re-focus, and since the Caribbean was not likely to start a war with anyone [it will interfere with carnivals and cricket matches] or some other focus-grabbing activity, we settled on CSME and, Cricket World Cup popularly known as the “Caribbean Olympics”.{{more}}

This sentiment is because these two important things are not easy, they are hard!

Also for years now, we were urged, and rightly so, to “get prepared” for the biggest single event to ever happen to us since the Atlantic plate drove itself under the Caribbean plate and these beautiful islands were formed from deep inside Mother Earth.

And so it came to pass that most of the general public are prepared, the private sector is all prepared, and we observe by way of all manner of jokes and bemusement, that the stadiums might just barely be ready in time for the opening hour of the games, as hopefully the paint has dried in the tropical sun, and the final few nails are driven.

I drove right into the frenzy that is the construction zone at the Arnos Vale stadium in St. Vincent a few days ago and from my very simple vantage points, I am sure they will pull it off OK and already the playing field grass looks absolutely amazing and very beautiful.

Similar news from around most of the other construction zones indicate the usual last minute rush expected [and needed] but that the stadiums should be ready in time.

So far, so good!

Then, as a hotelier, we get our first email in December, from one of our European Agents warning that some of their clients were NOW finding out that they will require visas which are nigh upon impossible to obtain now, at this late stage; hence cancellations are inevitable.

After all, visitors to the Caribbean, for cricket or not, are often busy people who have neither the time nor the focus to send passports away to some regional office for up to 2 weeks [yeah, right – try longer than that!] plus now pay a further US$100 per person on top of that!

Since then the stories have hit the media of those who say relax all is well over those who preach fire and damnation upon our heads.

The reality, as usual, is somewhere in between.

No question that this whole “visa thing” is way too late and that’s that…

All things considered and after chatting directly with a number of high-level officials and reading about the points of view of all others, I think we now HAVE to do something hard and fast.

Consider the family of 2 parents and 4 kids. Booked, paid for and confirmed tickets and reservations etc.; from some time ago.

Plus when they booked their trips, all Caribbean web sites and general info said they do not need visas [normally], and since they don’t usually get the Caribbean daily newspapers and emailed news reports, they arrive in the Caribbean…

They have no visas… Now what?

Do we send them back home on the next plane?

Sure, why not just shut down the tourism industry right now and forget about it all?

A SOLUTION!

Inbound visas upon arrival!

At each major inbound airport, we can set up tables with 12 to 20 persons staffing these tables, processing visas upon arrival.

Accept cash, credit cards and travelers checks. We have to do that otherwise what if someone does not have a credit card on them?

Now do we send them back?

It is time the Caricom Officials wake up and realise that they have no choice but to deal with this pressing issue as the private sector would deal with it, as a sensitive commercial issue and of course security is critical but if we have no tourism industry next year then what?

Turkish visitors to the Caribbean who do not usually need visas now have to have one.

Turkish Honorary Consul Generals from around the Eastern Caribbean have informed Ankara via the regional Embassy in Havana of this development and stand by to help where needed.

Anthony Gunn
Director – Beachcombers Hotel Ltd. – St Vincent. Turkish Honorary Consul General to Dominica.

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