Continued negative reports on the Caribbean region could result in the region losing out on the golden opportunity of hosting the 2007 Cricket World Cup although the ICC has already agreed that the next World Cup competition will be played in the West Indies once mandated standards are met.
President of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) the Reverend Wes Hall has put out a challenge to the regional tourism industry to work harder to provide a more positive image of this part of the world as the West Indies hope to host the 2007 World Cup.
Only recently Australian journalist Trevor Marshallsea criticized many aspects of the service industry during his two-month visit here to cover the Australia test and one-day cricket series.
The Aussie complained about the unfriendly taxi drivers he encountered in Trinidad and brought up the issue of items being stolen from baggage at the state of the art airport in Trinidad. Marshallsea also pointed to frustrations encountered at hotels and restaurants during his stay.
While what Marshallsea encountered might not be an everyday happening involving every tourist and could be a bit unfair to those who are friendly and professional, the problems he spoke about are real.
It is often difficult for regional media workers to travel hassle free through airports while covering regional competitions despite all that is being said about Caribbean unity by CARICOM and regional governments
Hall said on Friday that what the Australian said was hurtful but the fact of it is that it was true.
“We need to do everything to ensure that long before the World Cup comes along -long before that- that we are on the right side,” said Hall.
The WICB top man bowled a bouncer at the region’s tourism sector.
“This series is not only the beginning of a long and exciting road towards cricketing excellence in the World Cup, but without being prosecutorial, is the beginning of an opportunity for the leaders and stakeholders in the tourism industry to wake up to the urgency and importance of service excellence in the Caribbean, “ Hall told reporters on Friday.
In addition to the service related problems, visitors have also complained about the increase in crime in Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica and this is another problem that has to be dealt with by the regional governments if the WICB hopes to encourage massive support for the staging of a World Cup in the region.
The ICC have also lamented the quality of pitches in the West Indies with the pitch prepared for the third test in Barbados described as one of the worst pitches seen at test level in recent times while proper practice facilities are non existent at most regional first class venues.
Both the Australian and West Indies teams complained of missing items from their bags as they passed through the Trinidad airport. Only two days ago the manager of the Sri Lanka team complained about the late arrival of their luggage from Grenada to Barbados ahead of yesterday’s first one day international.
This is not a new development as regional teams playing in West Indies competitions have suffered the set back of their gear arriving long after their arrival for matches.
Police in countries from Guyana to the South to Jamaica to the North need to enforce laws that protect those who spend time and money in those countries. A major turn off to visitors are the badly dressed and many times hostile mini bus conductors (ZR vans in Barbados and Maxi taxies in Trinidad) who insist in over loading their buses and playing vulgur music with most times no intervention from the traffic cops who are present.
Hosting a World Cup could be of tremendous benefit to all involved especially small countries in this part of the world but if developmental plans are not put in place urgently then it could easily remain just a big dream. Time is running out.