#TurksandCaicos, April 2, 2021 – House of Assembly held a session on Tuesday March 30, but it was during the March 22, 2021 meeting the nation heard from Tourism & Environment Minister, Josephine Connolly who said there is already preparation ongoing on ways to enhance the speed of service of the TCI Assured portal.
“Mr. Speaker, the Ministry and Tourist Board spent most of the last year very much involved with the COVID 19 response and the setting up and management of the TCI Assured Portal. Mr. Speaker the portal continues to assess persons entering the country to avoid the importation of COVID 19. In the coming weeks, we will assess the workings of the portal and work with the Ministry of Health to review the current entry protocols.
Mr. Speaker we expect that over the next few weeks the arrival rates from the United States will increase. Although they will not meet the pre COVID 19 figures, with increases in vaccination it means that we must determine how we will manage the portal in the coming months,” said Minister Connolly who was reporting following a string of departmental debriefings within her ministerial portfolio.
Minister Connolly said new promotions for Turks and Caicos have been launched in partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, even as the US continues to discourage non-essential travel and as Joe Biden, President of the US, this week announced a fourth wave of COVID infection for the States is looming.
TCI is working the safe and secure destination angle in its promotions said the Minister, who also encouraged vaccination.
“Although, Mr. Speaker we know we will not meet the pre COVID numbers, we are still encouraged that the numbers regarding arrivals show increases in arrival. This is not for us to let our guard down. Mr. Speaker we are promoting our islands as a safe and secure destination with clear pre-arrival protocols and a vaccination program. We continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. This act helps you and helps our country as well. It will put us on the map as a country that doing all it can to prevent and protect against the spread of COVID 19. Get vaccinated!”
With social gatherings still banned under current health protocols, the Fish Fry, which was successfully staged at the Bight beachside Park is not able to be held, however, when the weekly native show and marketplace does resume, it will be at a new location in Providenciales.
“I should mention that I was also briefed on the future of the Fish Fry. The Fish Fry is a staple for visitors and residents. Several factors including COVID 19 has put the Fish Fry on hold. I am informed of discussions and decisions on a new site for the Fish Fry and in the coming weeks will be discussing this matter so that we make the best decision possible on the suitability of a new site and timelines to achieve our objectives for this,” informed Minister Connolly.
The Gaming sector is under pressure to morph to a Commission ahead of the expanded casino and gaming landscape which is coming as a result of the RitzCarlton resort due to be completed construction in four months. Also the Minister for Gaming, Josephine Connolly revealed that the transition to a Gaming Commission is frustrated by a lack of capacity.
“Mr. Speaker, I am currently continuing my review of this program, I am working toward a speedy placement of key personnel and reviewing several matters to ensure that the Gaming sector is on the right footing.”
The Minister who gave the report in the House of Assembly session on Tourism, Environment & Coastal Resources, the National Trust, Environment & Maritime Affairs, Disaster Management and Emergencies and Gaming said debriefings with each of her departments have been enlightening.
She said the National Trust needs support with Marketing and Public Relations as culture becomes more intertwined with Heritage for cultural preservation, she commended the DDME as one of the best run government engines but informed that improvements in voluntary support, early warning and communications systems and erasing the issues surrounding shelter management are among her focuses there.
“Mr. Speaker my aim would be to ensure that we address the shelter management issues and that we establish systems to improve early warnings, stronger volunteer involvement, and communication systems that will ensure that we can communicate throughout a disaster and immediately following. Mr. Speaker the evidence is there that for an effective disaster management response, everyone has to be involved and see themselves as part of the solution.”
Meetings are planned over the next few weeks to establish the Throne Speech promise of organising and expanding the fishing industry – the country’s third industry and the Maritime sector needs new laws, said Minister Josephine Connolly.
“Mr. Speaker my aim is to ensure that the new laws that are drafted are at the top of our Legislative agenda. These new laws will help to modernize the Maritime Sector and improve the safety and security issues surrounding our boats and ship register. Mr. Speaker I am pleased at the effort that the new Director and her team have put in to make sure the Department is ready for the Maritime Audit of our Industry. We aim to marry this industry more strongly with our fishing industry and ensure that the resources that are needed are in place.”
Adding to this, it was explained: “Mr. Speaker during the next few weeks I will be meeting with representatives from the Fisheries Advisory Committee, the Fishing Corp and all other stakeholder and interest groups. These groups are important to our vision of inclusiveness. I am looking forward to meeting with them and together designing a way forward.”