Chief Secretary and Secretary of Tourism Ancil Dennis made it clear that the Tobago House of Assembly’s(THA) reef tour ticketing system, introduced in July last year, does not prevent pre-booking of reef tours nor does it deny loyal clients from choosing specific operators.
He made this statement yesterday, in response to concerns raised by Buccoo Reef Tour Operators Association Public Relations Officer Michael Frank. Frank said the failed system does not address pre-booking of tours and loyal clients’ preferred tour operator bookings.
Frank told Guardian Media that the turn system for ticketing, borne out of a Memorandum of Understanding between the reef association and the THA, does not work properly. He said large tour operators, who had invested heavily in their boats, were suffering.
At Wednesday’s post- Executive Council media briefing, Dennis said the system failed because of a lack of enforcement of the policy. He vowed to bring “order and decency” to the operations by calling out the security forces, beginning over the long Easter holidays.
Responding to the reef association’s concerns, Dennis told Guardian Media the operators are free to advertise their tours online and through other forms of media.
He said once clients pre-booked their tour, they should inform the guards at Store Bay and Buccoo Reef and go directly to the boat operator. However, he said he will not allow operators to flout the reef users’ policy and solicit clients at either site.
He reiterated what the system is designed to do.
“ What it prevents or what it is seeking to prevent is the harassment of persons who enter into Store Bay or Pigeon Point and who may wish to go to the reef. It seeks to put in place a system where those persons can go to a specific location and purchase their tickets at a specific price,’ Dennis said.
The Chief Secretary said he understands the larger operators’ concerns about a drop in their sales now that demand for tours has declined. However, he said the ticketing system gives the smaller operators a chance to earn an income as before its introduction, only operators with the loudest touts benefitted from the tours.
At this week’s post-Executive Council media briefing, Dennis said the ticketing system was here to stay.