By Jamell Robinson – March 12, 2020
As COVID-19 aka the Coronavirus having now been classified as a worldwide pandemic, it has brought into sharp focus in my mind just how vulnerable our Tourism based economy happens to be. In Italy, the government has decided on a country wide lock down. Across Europe, Football games (Soccer) are being cancelled. In the USA, the NBA has now suspended its season and the famed March Madness Tournament is going forward without any fans in attendance at the stadium. Universities are requiring students to do classes online off campus. All of these measures are in an effort to slow, stop, or avoid the spread of the Coronavirus within these countries by reducing events or gatherings of large crowds.
All the while, worldwide travel is continually being reduced, manufacturing being affected, and economies are taking big hits. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA has advised US citizens to avoid taking cruise ship vacations. Hotel bookings are being cancelled across the TCI. Tour Operators are battling cancellations in Grand Turk due to concerned cruise passengers related to TCIG’s preparedness. In response to the confusion of whether a sick passenger could be Medevac’d from Grand Turk, Carnival has diverted several of its ship calls to the Grand Turk Cruise Center. All of this is happening and the Turks and Caicos presently does not have one confirmed or suspected Coronavirus case.
As the saying goes, Necessity is the Mother of Invention. It’s clear that it has become necessary that we as a people answer the question, what will we do economically if our Tourism Industry is significantly reduced or collapses altogether. While in the midst of a crisis, it might not seem ideal to focus efforts on long term solutions but rather to focus on the crisis at hand. However, Dr. Myles Munroe has said “In the middle of a crisis is when your mind is at its sharpest”. In the short-term TCIG must consider or at the very least find out the cost if they need to provide Business interruption financial assistance for Turks and Caicos Islander Business and Personnel if there is a significant and extended economic disruption due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We have over $200 Million in cash reserves. We simply need to know the cost and how such a program could be implemented if deemed necessary.
In the long-term, we must unleash the pent up potential of young Turks and Caicos Islanders both near and far in an effort to genuinely find out the next industry to pair with Tourism, if not surpass it, in order to truly diversify our economy. It must be both robust and sustainable. The vehicle to encourage this innovation must be Invest TC with a revamped MSME Ordinance, such that all categories are waved and the $10,000 grant is increased to a $50,000 grant paired with a $50,000 loan facility, which would result in up to $100,000 in startup capital. These paired with the development of Business Incubators will no doubt result in the ideas we need to diversify our economy!
Right now it feels like we are sitting ducks waiting on the inevitable. No need to waste a crisis, as in every crisis there is opportunity!
SEND YOUR VIEWS OR PERSPECTIVES OR CONCERNS TO firstname.lastname@example.org