Here in Grenada we have become used to the expression “tourism is our business.” I have absolutely no doubt that tourism should indeed be our business. But is it? The answer to that question would quite easily depend on who you ask. The government and other tourism stakeholders may very well answer in the affirmative, but many independent observers may wish to differ.
I do not intend to be pessimistic in my outlook especially when dealing with a vital issue like tourism and its importance to the economy of Grenada. But, having made several trips to Grenada in the past few years, recounting my own personal experiences at the MBIA, and after listening to so many complaints from visitors from different walks of life, it is quite logical for me to question whether in fact tourism is really our business here in Grenada.
You see, it is often said that first impressions are lasting. Equally, I submit that when it comes to a strategic industry like tourism, last impressions are also lasting. So what precisely am I referring to in this piece?
When a visitor lands in Grenada, he/she first encounters the immigration officers and then proceeds to the Customs and Excise Section for screening in relation to the goods brought into the country. For the most parts, the officers attached to those two arms of government do their jobs in a professional manner which suggests to me that whatever training those officers received is being put to effective use to ensure that visitors to our beautiful country do end up with positive and lasting impressions of Grenada – an attribute that could only redound to the overall benefit of our tourism industry and by extension economy.
Having participated in various activities in the country, it is now time to depart. First stop, the various airlines. Typically, that experience goes well, except at times when there is turmoil within a particular airline and the passengers are made to suffer undue delays in check-in and departure of their flights. Second stop, immigration. And I am sure most visitors to Grenada would admit that the officers who attend to them are often very polite and professional in their outlook and handling of passengers.
Finally, here comes airport security and all of the good works put in by our immigration and customs’ officers to create that lasting first impression, goes a begging! And I say this without any apologies!
People always ask me what exactly academics like me do. My simple answer is: We ask questions! Well, I will simple follow that tradition in addressing the issue of the behaviour and attitude of some of our airport security personnel. So, here goes: (1) What is the required qualification for an airport security guard? (2) What sort of screening does the Airport Authority utilise in its hiring process for these guards? (3) How long is the period of training for these guards? (4) Who conducts the training? (5) Where is the training done? (6) How often are these guards put through a refresher course? (7) How contemporary and urbane are the machines used at the airport to screen both checked-in and hand luggage?
Undoubtedly, honest answers to these questions would go a long way in helping those in authority at the MBIA to identify areas for improvement in airport security as well as enhancing the mannerisms, competences and professionalisms of all of its security personnel.
If tourism is our business in Grenada, the country certainly cannot afford to function with any overzealous, unmannerly airport security guard who behaves like a pure nincompoop because he/she wears a uniform and has certain authority under the Law.
Shame on all those airport security guards who now care to wear the proverbial hat only because it fits them as a result of my plucky exposure of their insalubrious behaviour! A word to the wise is sufficient!
Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)