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Should we allow some Customs officers to destroy the tourism industry?

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Tue Feb 17, 2015

Editor: The tourism product is a very important product to the country’s development. Every Vincentian and non-national should take their responsibility seriously. When Ms René Baptiste was selected to sit as the Minister of Tourism, most Vincentians thought that she was the best, but I have news for them. Mr Glen Beache was the best option for the Minister of Tourism and the data is conclusive. Mr Glen Beache is now serving as the CEO of the Tourism Authority — a job in which he is trying his best with standards and training — these are his watchwords.{{more}}

As one who has benefited by training offered by the Tourism Authority, I am grateful. Mr Glen Beache is very firm and he is lifting the tourism level to a high standard and that’s why training is essential for Immigration, Customs and Police Officers at different ports of entry, especially at the ET Joshua Airport.

As a taxi driver who operates at the ET Joshua Airport, I am exposed to visitors from various parts of the world. When a visitor visits St Vincent and the Grenadines it’s because they desire to visit. The desire has to be very strong because of the difficulties visitors endure in getting to St Vincent. So, they have to be given the respect that they deserve by persons who work at Customs as Customs officers.

Certain Customs officers at the ET Joshua have to do their jobs, but while doing their jobs they must make great effort to be more considerate to our visitors. Visitors have to abide by Customs officers who are frustrating the visitors. Visitors complain about the questions asked by these Customs officers.

Questions like how much money they have, how long they plan on staying. They also complain about the length of time the Customs officers take to process them. Yes, it is true that we have to protect our ports of entry, but we must be mindful that the tourism industry is very fragile and persons who are not trained will destroy this industry. Should we allow some Customs officers to destroy this industry?

When I received these complaints, I immediately went to the Comptroller of Customs, Mr Grenville John. He listened to me, but did not satisfy my inquiries. All that was said to me was to ask the Prime Minister!

I spoke to one of the Customs officers, known by the name Sandy, and I was told that she is working based on orders that were given by her supervisor. I was disappointed with the response I received from both the Comptroller and the Customs officer, so that’s why I am taking it to the public.

I am making an appeal to the Prime Minister, Mr Glen Beache, and Minister Ces McKie to train these persons working in these delicate areas. Being trained to do one’s job is a very essential aspect to ensuring the survival of the industry. I was told to mind my own business after inquiring about the various complaints I received.

The Customs officer whom I spoke with told me that the Prime Minister is the one who is giving the orders, but while he is the one giving the orders, the Customs officer is the one who enforces the orders. So, I am pleading to persons in the tourism industry to be more respectful to our visitors and also to be more mindful of harmful aspects that can decrease the level that our tourism industry has grown to.

Kingsley DeFreitas

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