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Crisis Offers Big Change to Upgrade Caribbean Tourism Product, says Chief

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MIAMI (April 21, 2020) – Frank Comito, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) chief executive, told the world press how the Caribbean hospitality sector and destinations were marshaling their crisis management experience to be able to bounce back stronger and better once the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has subsided.

Speaking on a Zoom link from Miami on a recent Foreign Press Association (FPA) webinar, Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of CHTA, commended resort owners for using the opportunity to refresh their offerings and facilities and train staff on advanced aspects of the sector – albeit at a social distance – while the region remains closed to new visitors.

Frank Comito, CEO, CHTA

Host and FPA President Ian Williams expanded on Comito’s insightful remarks and invited him to explain the measures the tourism sector and governments were taking to protect the workers in the industry and to preserve and develop their skills. 


Comito described the initiatives which CHTA, working in partnership with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), put in place since January. The measures built upon previous efforts to address health threats with training, information sharing, and signing up hotels to participate in an online health monitoring platform which was developed several years ago by the health agency.

Offering words of optimism, he pointed to research coming out of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and Oxford Economics research following the 2017 hurricanes showing that the Caribbean tourism sector recovered to pre-hurricane levels faster than anticipated, after returning with a new and improved product.

The CHTA chief told international reporters attending the virtual press conference that the Caribbean tourism sector had a proven ability to rebound strongly from adversity, after developing resilience from experiences including 9/11, Zika, hurricanes, chikungunya, volcano eruptions and earthquakes. “The data clearly shows we bounced back better and stronger … there’s every reason to believe we will be resilient once again,” he stated.

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He urged tourism stakeholders to take advantage of COVID-19 resources set up by CHTA to contain the spread of the virus in the region, and laid out on the CHTA COVID-19 Resource Center at www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/covid-19/, which covers everything from readiness to handling cancellations. He reinforced the important role which the Caribbean will play in restoring wellness and well-being as many look to refresh and ‘get back to nature’ once the pandemic subsides.
In thanking Comito for his insights, FPA President Williams agreed that “we’ll need the Caribbean to recuperate after months of confinement,” and proposed hosting a future webinar from a beach in the Caribbean.

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International GANG behind DEADLY crime wave says TCI Premier

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, September 29, 2022 – International gangs are at least partially behind the unusual and tragic flare up of violence in the Turks and Caicos over the past month according to  Washington Misick, TCI Premier. He made the revelations in a National Address on Monday (September 26) night after the third double murder of the month.

“September has seen organized crime gangs including gangs with international and external affiliations fighting for control of the drugs money and territory in these islands. We are now subject to crime generated not just within our borders but without.”

In response, the country leader said resources were being mobilised to find those responsible ‘whether they are here or elsewhere’.

The premier did not delve into where these international affiliations were or which major organized gangs were reaching into the small archipelago.

The revelation does answer in part at least the perplexing question of why the sheer number of violent killings has risen so dramatically in a little over three weeks. For context 11 of the islands 22 murders this year were committed during that time.

It’s not only international gangs, the drug trade has been fingered by Misick as a major driver of the killings in the TCI. In a previous press conference Misick stressed, “At the heart of the gun violence in this country is drugs, that is what the fight is about and we all know that’s what the fight is about.”

In response the Turks and Caicos Islands Government is calling in the cavalry.  TCIG has requested reinforcements from the Caribbean, North America and Europe, the premier has revealed.

Several immediate actions are to be implemented in the coming weeks and they include:

  • More police officers will be deployed on the street especially in affected areas. While the regiment will not be joining them in the field they will they will take over administrative duties and maritime duties to free up more officers
  • An official letter has been sent to the Foreign Commonwealth development office and Prime Minister Liz Truss requesting military and police assistance. A response is expected shortly with “specific deliverables”
  • Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas have all been contacted to lend police reinforcement which Misick said “should result in boots on the ground” after ‘encouraging’ calls.
  • A request to the US Department of Homeland Security for surveillance aircraft  to patrol the ocean between TCI and Hispaniola to stop all types of smuggling.
  • Twenty-three officers will arrive in the coming days along with a inspector and a chief superintendent to set up a drug gun and gang unit.
  •  Interim and permanent forms of air support are being procured
  • Armored vehicles for police are being purchased and will arrive in the islands in three months

The new measures reflect the gravity of the situation and the request for heavier police presence as made by members of the public;many who are now grieving slaughtered loved-ones say the steps should have been made a lot sooner.

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Storm Troubles as September heats up late

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

September 27, 2022 – Hurricane Ian moved near the Cayman Islands and was forecast to intensify rapidly and hit Cuba as a major hurricane late on Monday and then strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico before striking the west central coast of Florida on Wednesday.

Now millions in Tampa Bay, Florida are bracing for impact after a hundred year absence of any major storm.

So far, authorities in Cuba have suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and planned evacuations on Monday as Ian gained strength and approach Grand Cayman and the Cuban provinces of Isla de Juventud, Pinar del Rio and Artemisa. Cuba was also shutting down its train system ahead of the worst weather.

Senior Specialist at the United States National Hurricane Center Daniel Brown told The Associated Press early Monday that “Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane force winds, life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall.”

In the Cayman Islands, members of the government and opposition were working together to ensure that people were made as safe as possible and provided with supplies, plywood, and in some cases sandbags so that they could safely weather the storm, according to Premier Wayne Panton in a video on Sunday.

As of Monday, September 26, most of the customers on the island of Bermuda have received power with just about 200 properties still without electricity.

Last week Hurricane Fiona brought heavy rain and strong winds to the island causing about 29,000 customers, more than 80 per cent of the island’s sole power provider, Bermuda Electric Light Company to be without electricity on Friday morning.

The island has also started its restoration process and announced that it has reopened for business.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, more than a million people in the two countries are still without power and running water after the passing of Hurricane Fiona over the Islands last week.

A growing number of businesses in Puerto Rico, including grocery stores and gas stations, are temporarily closing across the territory as the outages drag on, sparking concern about the availability of fuel and basic goods.

As of Saturday, at least 16 people had died because of Hurricane Fiona, according to Puerto Rico’s Department of Health, which is tracking hurricane-related deaths on the island.

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Utility, Telecoms Companies Prepared for Peak of Atlantic Hurricane Season

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#Kingston, Jamaica, September 27, 2022 – As activity in the tropical Atlantic intensifies, the island’s major utility companies have indicated their preparedness for severe weather conditions.

Hon. Desmond McKenzie

Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Senior Manager, George Kates, said that the company has invested heavily in its disaster-preparedness plans, which were continually developed using many years of lessons.  He said that critical staff and third-party contractors are mobilised and emergency operation centres throughout the island are ready to be activated, when needed.

Additionally, he indicated that in disaster, the JPS maintains contact with the security forces and the National Works Agency (NWA), “because we can recover as fast as they allow us because they have to be ahead of us to clear roads and make way for our team to move”.

“I can comfortably say that the JPS is in an advanced stage of readiness. We are ready to respond to any eventualities,” Mr. Kates assured.

He was addressing a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

During the meeting, which was convened by Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, key private and public-sector entities outlined their state-of-readiness for Tropical Depression Nine, which strengthened into Tropical Storm Ian.

While the country was spared the worst effects of the system, it has since developed into a major hurricane and is expected to impact Cuba and Florida.

National Water Commission (NWC) Chairman, Mark Barnett, in noting the entity’s readiness, said that measures have been put in place to prepare for adverse weather conditions.  He noted that key townships across the island have been equipped with standby generators and that all NWC facilities in deep rural or urban areas will continue to operate “as long as it is safe to do so”.

He pointed out, however, that where the weather becomes severe, some facilities may experience disruptions or may be forced to shut down, especially those that rely heavily on reasonable quality water flow from rivers.

“We are making strides to ensure that we have the necessary infrastructure and necessary capacity in place for responsiveness, knowing very well that we are a [small] island state and we are subject to these events,” Mr. Barnett said.

“All in all, we feel pretty comfortable in terms of our preparedness,” he noted.

As it relates to telecommunications, the island’s two main providers also told the committee meeting that they are ready to face a disaster if one strikes.

FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlined that the company has put 12 disaster plans in place, which allows for response to situations in a timely manner.  She said that using lessons from the past, FLOW has actively trained its coordinators to respond to certain protocols and has identified key personnel in each parish, with the regional crisis management team also on standby if the local team requires assistance.

“We have tested our satellite phones that we have in stock and we’re also happy to say that we are supporting the national disaster programme. We have contributed to vests, we have sourced signs, and we [have helped to] ensure that shelter management programmes are up and running,” Mrs. Brown Plunkett noted.

Some of the challenges experienced by the company that may affect its disaster response include the theft of infrastructure, which includes batteries and copper wires, and damage outside the plant network caused by motor-vehicle accidents.

To mitigate these, the company has activated monitoring and tracking on its devices, sensitised communities to monitor any irregularities, and has undertaken routine assessments. There’s also an environmental management programme in place to manage hazardous waste, said Mrs. Brown Plunkett.  Furthermore, the company’s corporate communications team actively monitors and sends out alerts to the public, in the event of a weather system.

Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, for his part, told the committee meeting that the company had activated its emergency management team to ensure full internal coordination.

“That includes our technical team that ensures that our sites are ready, that our facilities are topped up with fuel, that we have double-checked batteries to ensure complete reliance, that we have coordinated with our partners to make sure that they, too, are ready, that we establish lines of communication around the emergency messages,” Mr. Parkinson said.

He noted that the company had assured its business customers of the lines of communication and the strategies it will be undertaking, to maintain business continuity.

Additionally, the company had activated its social media pages to be used as a ‘community hub’ for information and to convey updates from the Government.

“As we do, we are supporting the overall government of Jamaica’s command and control communication efforts, and those efforts are going to be critical to getting Jamaica back on its feet again [in the event of severe weather],” he said.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs annually from June 1 to November 30. Mid-August to about mid-October is considered to be the peak of the season when, statistically, the tropical Atlantic becomes the most active, and experiences the most dangerous storms.

 

Contact: Mickella Anderson

Release: JIS

Photo Captions:

Donald De La Haye photos

 

1st insert: Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry’s office in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

2nd insert: National Water Commission (NWC), Chairman, Mark Barnett, addresses a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston on Friday (September 23).

3rd insert: FLOW’s Senior Compliance Manager, Keniesha Brown Plunkett, outlines the company’s disaster preparation plans during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council on Friday (September 23) at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in Kingston.

4th insert: Digicel’s Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, discusses the company’s disaster preparation strategies during a special committee meeting of the National Disaster Risk Management Council at the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development’s Hagley Park Road headquarters on Friday (September 23).

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