#Providenciales, May 17, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – The pair of officials called it a natural fit which will lead to greater synergy and stronger lines of communication between two critically-linked agencies; Tourism as the leading bread-winner for the Turks and Caicos Islands now directly houses the Department of Disaster Management & Emergencies, DDME which undergirds all industries in any worse case scenario; and the shift is pioneering.
“I believe that this marriage is timely, it is bold and persons from across the region are giving kudos to the Turks and Caicos for having the foresight to have all of these very important environmental, tourism, economic drivers under one ministry working together in a collaborative fashion,” said Ralph Higgs, Minister of Tourism during a press conference on Wednesday.
In response to Magnetic Media’s question about the landmark move from Home Affairs to Tourism, Director of DDME, Dr. Virginia Clerveaux said, “We are the first to add Tourism and Disaster Management, however tourism and disaster management have been working together throughout the region for years. I think we are unique in the fact that when you look at the make-up of our Ministry it’s tourism, it’s environment, you see the name quickly and then you begin to think of the maritime sector that is also critical to us in the Turks and Caicos Islands and then you’re looking at heritage and you’re thinking about the UN perspective and protecting your heritage sites and how they can be impacted by not only man-made but also natural events,” she continued with, “The Department of Disaster Management, we come as if we are the overall co-ordinator…”
The relationship between the entities is not new, nor had it been dormant; there are many settings on a national level where the departments of environment, maritime and disaster management are required to give expert input.
In hurricane season, DDME serves as a strategic advisor for the tourism sector and admittedly, the half a billion dollars in damages and losses in Hurricanes Irma and Maria of 2017 accelerated the need for the union.
“There has been a good working relationship between the Department and the DDME and tourist Board for several years, one of the pluses of this union now is that all of the information needed to address tourism related matters will be contained of one umbrella,” explained Minister Higgs, who is a former Tourist Board Director.
DDME Director Dr. Clerveaux supported the remarks from her new Minister with, “It is important that we protect our investment. One major storm with a magnitude of what we experienced from Ike, Irma or Maria can spell a disaster in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The environment, the tourism industry, the travel industry are our most vulnerable sectors, not just in the Turks and Caicos islands, but throughout the world and therefore putting policies in place and working with our Tourism sector and working with the Environmental Agencies to ensure that we protect our natural resources is one of the best things that we can do, in terms of sustainable development management.”
Minister Higgs agrees and told media that he is pleased that the DDME can feed the ministry’s interests more directly.
“I think with this marriage now we can publicly celebrate that we have a complete ministry, as the Director said, over the years there has been a lot of collaboration and a lot of synergy, a lot of working together to ensure that in the event that there is a disaster, our number one industry which is tourism is not destroyed beyond repair. I believe with the marriage of the DDME (to the Ministry of Tourism, Gaming, Environment and Maritime Affairs), we will take a very proactive approach to ensuring that the people of this country, our visitors to this country, knows the risk of any disaster and they know the vulnerabilities and they ensure that they have measures in place.”
Dr. Virginia Clerveaux as Director of the Department has been hailed at home and abroad for the efficient and effective management of the DDME, especially in the aftermath of the hurricane season’s most fierce storms on record. Dr. Clerveaux takes with her to Tourism a team of 10 and the shift came in a TCI Cabinet shuffle which placed the DDME under the Tourism, Environment, Heritage and Maritime umbrella.
“This merger will ensure that there is more synergy and there is greater communication between the natural resource enforcers and the agency that has to coordinate response in the event of a disaster.”
The media meeting was held at the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies Providenciale headquarters and handed over to Minister Ralph Higgs were the policies governing the DDME and its Disaster Management strategies.