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The Boom is here, but are we Ready for it?  Horrendous lines at the AIRPORT say, NO!

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, March 21, 2022 – Government and the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority (TCIAA) can no longer get away with saying the ‘overcrowding’ at the airport is a ‘good problem to have’, it is now becoming increasingly risky from a health perspective and condemning – reputationally – for a destination renown as a luxury escape.

The consistent marketing of the Turks and Caicos, which is a British Overseas Territory, as an elite Caribbean region getaway is working marvellously, but the plans to brace for the booming interest in TCI holidays are lagging dangerous behind; the results and optics are disastrous.

 

Wrong last impression

On the afternoon of Saturday March 19, hundreds of tourists were filmed on cell phone video smashed together like sardines at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS).  Obviously frustrated, agitated and incensed by the horrendous lines at the outdoor-styled departure area; the guests were moaning in disbelief.

All Covid-19 physical distancing protocols had to be ignored; it was impossible to distance anyone.  There were too many people and no space to cater to them as they queued up.  The lines for flight check-in and security check points were most definitely blurred.

“Today we processed a total of Four-thousand, thirty-one (4031) passengers and Twenty-seven (27) commercial flights. Due to infrastructural limitations, in combination with flight delays of 30-60 minutes we experienced congestion issues beyond expected,” said the TCIAA in a statement issued Saturday night.

In one video, children were captured seated on the grimy ground of a parking lot which is used as a holding area for ground transportation at the PLS.

To all reading that statement, it seemed the TCIAA and the Ministry of Border Services were caught unprepared for the travel traffic and proved to be a weak link in the experiential tourism chain.

 

Everyone Knew it was Coming

In 2021, the Turks and Caicos recorded its best year for tourism and real estate sales, according to Premier Washington Misick, in his 200-day in office report.

“All signs point to an economy on the rebound, said Premier Washington Misick in September 2021, when he gave a National Address.

“Preliminary figures show, that during the first half of this year visitor arrivals increased by approximately 34.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.  Merchandise imports into the Turks and Caicos Islands during the first half of this year totalled $215.6 million.  This represents an increase of $30.6 million or 16.9% percent when compared to the same period in 2020.  The Recurrent Revenue of $165.4 million at August, exceeded budget by $39.5 million.  The major revenue drivers are: Stamp duty on land transactions – $44m; Hotel and Restaurant Tax – $36m; Customs processing and Import duties – $42m.”

Easier getting in, tougher getting out, both bad.

Our newsroom was informed by passengers that disembarkation is also a nightmare.  Up to 30-minutes waiting in the landed plane for guests is frustrating we are told, but admittedly more kind that having the arriving passengers standing in the open elements which would be far more unbearable.

Exiting the TCI by commercial flight at the PLS is taking up to three hours.

“Tourism numbers have grown considerably over the past several years, and we understand that this growth necessitates an airport redevelopment plan, which has remained a top priority for us.  Long-term development strategies are being progressed to support decision making for a new terminal building, ancillary facilities, upgrades to our taxiway system and airfield, to provide an improved passenger experience.  Various short-term measures continue to be explored whilst we work towards the expansion of the airport as a permanent solution,” said the TCIAA.

Since it is out of the question that Turks and Caicos plug up the enviable tourism boom, the question now becomes what can be done to deliver more comfortable service until the long term plans for the country’s #1 airline gateway are actualized.

A canopy was due to be constructed on the airport tarmac by now; it is supposed to accommodate hundreds of arriving passengers.  Inexplicably, it remains unconstructed.

 

An Old Problem

Tourism arrivals for the Turks and Caicos have been on an annual upward trajectory.  In 2019, the country hit a fabulous stride and that is also about the time videos of overcrowding began to surface.  They showed horrendous lines outside of arrivals and as travellers departed.

The situation exposed an unfavourable problem which many blamed on a short-sighted expansion of a little over a decade ago.

It is well documented that the airport expansion of 2010-2014 came in two phases at a cost of $10 million cumulatively.  It was said to nearly double the size of the terminal from 51,462 to 92,321 sq. ft but it was also criticised as many suspected the design offered no protection from the unpredictable elements and the enlarged facility was still insufficient.

Residents say they are tired of hearing the Government of the day, pat itself on the back for strong tourism performance and then fail to provide the infrastructure and public amenities to in order to give people an end to end exceptional experience.

Islanders also believe they deserve a better experience as travellers and workers at the Providenciales International Airport.

While the TCIAA explained the situation, yet again, there was no announcement about the mitigation efforts planned to cope with the next big rush, which is now about four days away.

“Our team, in partnership with our stakeholders are working assiduously to provide a more smoother passenger flow through the terminal building.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused on these unique peak days. We remain committed to provide the greatest level of comfort possible for our valued travelers.”

 

UPDATED…

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FortisTCI Statement – Rising Fuel Prices and Electricity Bills

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#TurksandCaicos, June 1, 2022 – The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to affect the supply and cost of fuel worldwide, and significant increases in fuel prices are expected to continue in the upcoming months. This translates into higher electricity bills.

We empathize with the challenges customers are facing due to higher electricity bills at this time. While the cost of fuel is beyond our control, we want to help ease the burden as much as possible. We remain committed to keeping customers informed about these global trends.

Customer notices were issued back in April, and information was shared via mainstream media channels on these developments. At the time, we also shared that our fuel supplier, Sun Oil Ltd, projected further increases in the cost of fuel in the months ahead, and this has now become a reality for utilities and customers. These higher fuel costs are reflected in the fuel factor rate on customer electricity bills.

Fuel Factor Rate Increases

Due to fuel price increases in the month of May, the fuel factor for Grand Turk and Salt Cay customers increased from $0.1672 to $0.2053, and from $0.1962 to $0.2405 for Providenciales, North and Middle Caicos customers, respectively. These represent an increase of 23%, which are reflected on June electricity bills. For example, if the fuel factor on May’s bill was $100, this would change to $123 on June’s bill, provided that the customer’s consumption remained the same month over month.

The fuel factor rate for customers on South Caicos was $0.2299 in May and an increase in the rate is also expected. The fuel factor rate is calculated monthly as outlined in the Electricity Ordinance. As FortisTCI is a regulated electricity company, the fuel factor rate is sent to the TCI Government’s Energy and Utilities Commissioners Office each month for authentication.

What To Expect In The Months Ahead

Based on the latest information received from our fuel supplier, the cost of fuel will rise significantly over the next several months, which will cause a further increase in the fuel factor and ultimately an increase in electricity bills. Similar to the rising prices at gas stations, grocery stores, and across other sectors, the utility industry is also recording the same upward trend due to global market factors.

In addition, we are now in the summer months and higher temperatures at this time of the year may affect electricity costs. Higher temperatures can mean increased use of air conditioning, which is the biggest consumer of electricity in the home.

Customer Support Measures

The following measures are now in effect:

No penalties on late payments during the months of July and August 2022.

No disconnections for balances less than 60 days overdue from July to August 2022. Payment plans on a case-by-case basis.

To further assist customers, FortisTCI will launch a series of interactive online educational sessions on how to manage energy use.

We encourage customers to keep track of their electricity use by signing up for My Online Account. Visit www.fortistci.com to register. My Online Account allows customers to set budget limits on their electricity usage and receive alerts when their consumption limit is approaching.

We believe that renewable energy is a pathway to lower energy costs and we are working with TCI Government to implement supportive regulations. As your partner in energy, we will continue to expand our renewable energy programs and reduce our dependence on diesel fuel.

 

Ruth Forbes

President and Chief Executive Officer

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Bahamas News

Beautiful Grand Bahama extended for additional 12 weeks

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By: Robyn Adderley

Bahamas Information Services

 

#GrandBahama, The Bahamas, July 2, 2022 – Hundreds of Beautiful Grand Bahama workers cheered when told by Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey on Friday that their 12-week work programme has been extended for 12 additional weeks.

The employees are from all communities of the island.

While addressing the employees at the Grand Lucayan, Minister Moxey said, “Your hard work and dedication has begun delivering the results we, at the Ministry for Grand Bahama, envisioned when we launched this program back in April.

“We wanted to give hope, provide an opportunity for our young people, especially our inner-city residents, to make an honest living, while also helping to revitalize their communities by tackling issues that have negatively affected the environment and diminished the historical and cultural beauty of our beloved island, which affects its attractiveness as a world-class destination.”

The goal of the programme, she said, is to transform lives and communities.

“Many of you here today, are mothers, fathers, siblings, and possibly the main breadwinners in your household, and the time you’ve dedicated to this program has restored your faith in our island’s recovery.”

It was the belief of the Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip Davis, when assigning her to the Ministry, she continued, that Grand Bahama could be one of the most powerful economies in the country.

The programme, the Minister continued, is designed to transform communities, and not just a cleanup campaign.

Minister Moxey then pointed out how the transformations have already begun:  Tripp Circle Project is designed to house displaced families to provide short-term housing relief, including trauma counseling and a job readiness programme to help them get back on their feet; the Peel Street Project is designed to transform a historic site for national security into a Police Museum and Cultural Centre for visitors and residents to enjoy; the Pinder’s Point Historic Lighthouse area will be converted into a community visitor attraction and entrepreneurship centre, as part of the Community Tourism & Cultural Initiative; the Pelican Bay Festival Grounds will be transformed into another tourism & cultural center for East Grand Bahama, to create year-round economic activity for the residents; and work in West Grand Bahama, to transform the community from Eight Mile Rock to West End, clearing bushes and debris, beautifying spaces for both residents and visitors to enjoy.

The government, she said, is committed to “rebuilding, revolutionizing, and restoring Grand Bahama but we cannot do it without your help. The people of Grand Bahama are courageous and resilient; it is finally Grand Bahama’s time, and the Ministry for Grand Bahama wants to assist you with preparing yourselves for future opportunities.”

To assist the employees further, continued Minister Moxey, Pastor Barry Morris was invited to assist those who may have made choices in their past and now have a record.  Representatives were also present from the Labour Department and Immigration to further assist with those areas.

“Like I’ve been saying all along, this is what Beautiful Grand Bahama is all about – it’s a holistic approach to rebuilding our communities and the lives of our people.”

Minister Moxey then announced that the programme has been extended for an additional 12 weeks and the room erupted with cheers.

As a surprise for the Minister, Corey Nixon serenaded her on the saxophone with an Alicia Keys song, “If I Aint Got You.” In response to this, Minister Moxey used the opportunity to inform the employees of the $5,000 grant for the Orange Economy.

The Minister closed the event with, “See you on Monday.”

 

Release: BIS

Photo Captions: 

Header: The Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey on Friday, July 1 announced to hundreds of employees of the Beautiful Grand Bahama initiative that the programme has been extended for an additional 12 weeks.

1st insert: Hundreds of residents gathered in the Ballroom of the Grand Lucayan Resort on Friday, July 1 for the closing ceremony of Beautiful Grand Bahama, a 12-week initiative geared towards cleaning up every community on the island. During the ceremony, Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey, explained what is intended for the areas the employees had been working in.

2nd insert: Saxophonist Corey Nixon serenaded Minister for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Ginger Moxey on Friday, July 1 at the Grand Lucayan Ballroom at the end of the Closing Ceremony of the Beautiful Grand Bahama 12-week initiative. Minister Moxey explained that there is a $5,000 grant for the Orange Economy where talented artists and creatives can receive funding.

(BIS Photos/Andrew Miller)

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Caribbean News

US Milestone Celebrated

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#Jamaica, June 30, 2022 – This year marks the United States of America’s (USA) 246th anniversary of Independence, and the milestone was celebrated with a reception on June 28 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.  The event also featured the traditional United States Marine Corps Colour Guard ceremony.

Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who represented the Government of Jamaica, extended congratulations to the Government and people of the United States (US) on this significant achievement.

“The Government of Jamaica is pleased to join in commemorating this milestone with our American friends and partners. Today we celebrate a nation that continues to give practical meaning to the declaration of Independence and the vision of the founding fathers for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These tenets have been central to the growth and development of the Union since 1776 and its transformation as a global leader,” he said.

For his part, US Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Nick Perry, said the countries’ partnership has been rewarding, and expressed the United States’ continued commitment to strengthening the cooperation between the nations.

“On behalf of the United States Mission to Jamaica, thank you for joining us as we celebrate the 246th anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America. As we celebrate America’s independence, we also celebrate 60 years of partnership between our two countries. Together we have promoted democracy, human rights, and shared security concerns,” he said.

Jamaica established diplomatic relations with the United States in 1962, following its independence from the United Kingdom.

The partnership focuses on reducing corruption; increasing transparency and good governance; fostering Jamaican participation in regional security efforts; strengthening basic education; and increasing energy resiliency.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US has provided more than US$16.4 million as well as donations of vaccines to assist Jamaica’s containment measures.

Additionally, over the last 12 months, the United States has collaborated with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to issue a record number of H2 visas, bringing critical, temporary labour to the US, while providing jobs for thousands of Jamaicans that resulted in millions of dollars in remittances.

Significantly, the Peace Corps, which is also celebrating 60 years of partnership with Jamaica this year, will resume its operations on the island beginning September, following a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

 

Contact: Rochelle Williams

Release: JIS

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