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Immigration and customs officials should set tourism standards high


Fri May 24, 2013

Editor: I am a taxi driver who operates my business at the E.T. Joshua Airport. At this airport, the director of the airport demands high standards from us taxi drivers. I had a conversation with the former Minister of Tourism Mr Glen Beache, who is now the CEO of the Tourism Authority.{{more}} He made it clear that high standards will be a must by all who are involved directly and indirectly in the tourism business, once the international airport gets up and running.

I agree with Mr Beache to the fullest, but I wonder if he is serious about what he said. The reason for me saying this is, as someone who interacts with tourists on a daily basis, I receive numerous complaints about the immigration and customs officials. I am aware that they must do their jobs, but while doing their jobs, they should be reminded that tourism is the biggest industry and first impressions count.

One of the complaints visitors are making is the length of time immigration takes to process them. Returning Vincentians with Vincentian passports are asked how long they are staying and the purpose of returning. When the visitors arrive at customs, the custom officers proceed to play the role of the immigration, asking the same questions that were asked by the immigration officers.

One can only imagine how frustrating this can be. Do you think it is fair for customs officers to profile a visitor and assume that their intentions are dirty?

A visitor said to me that his wife came for two weeks, but spent one week in customs. Mr Cecil McKie, who is the Minister of Tourism, Mr Glen Beache who is the CEO of the Tourism Authority, Mr Hamilton who is the Chief Immigration Officer, Comptroller of Customs, Mr John, the Director of Airports Mrs Corsel Robinson and the Commissioner of Police Keith Miller all know the importance of having trained persons at our airports.

It’s time for the Government to ensure that the persons working at our airports are trained so that our tourism can survive.

The visitors are also complaining about the undercover police working at the airport. The complaints are that these undercover police profile visitors often and they exceed their authority.

Let’s work out these problems so that we can build a strong tourism.

Kingsley DeFreitas