Monday, January 29, 2007

Visa to Create Problem during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007

Ahead of the cricekt world cup 2007, some problems have come forward and visa is one of them. During the tournament there will have a heavy rush in the country as many fans will go to the Caribbean region to see the highest competition of the cricket world. It is needed to have that preparation for the world cup to ace such a rush in the host nations. Hardbeatnews reported:

And so it came to pass that most of the general public are prepared, the private sector is all prepared, and we observe by way of all manner of jokes and bemusement, that the stadiums might just barely be ready in time for the opening hour of the games, as hopefully the paint has dried in the tropical sun, and the final few nails are driven home.

I drove right into the frenzy that is the construction zone at the Arnos Vale stadium in St. Vincent a few days ago and from my very simple vantage points, I am sure they will pull it off OK and already the playing field grass looks absolutely amazing and very beautiful.

Similar news from around most of the other construction zones indicate the usual last minute rush expected [and needed] but that the stadiums should be ready in time. So far, so good!

Then, as a hotelier, we got our first email in December, from one of our European agents warning that some of their clients were NOW finding out that they will require visas which are nigh upon impossible to obtain now, at this late stage; hence cancellations are inevitable.

After all, visitors expected to the Caribbean, for cricket or not, are often busy people who have neither the time nor the focus to send passports away to some regional office for up to 2 weeks [yeah, right – try longer than that!] And now must pay a further US$100 per person on top of that!

Since then the stories have hit the media there are those who say relax all is well to those who preach fire and damnation upon our heads. The reality, as usual, is somewhere in between.

No question that this whole “visa thing” is way too late and that’s that. All things considered and after chatting directly with a number of high-level officials and reading about the points of view of all others, I think we now HAVE to do something hard and fast.

Consider the family of 2 parents and 4 kids. Booked, paid for and confirmed tickets and reservations etc.; from some time ago. Plus when they booked their trips, all Caribbean web sites and general info said they do not need visas [normally], and since they don’t usually get the Caribbean daily newspapers and emailed news reports, they arrive in the Caribbean. They have no visas… Now what?

Do we send them back home on the next plane? Sure, why not just shut down the tourism industry right now and forget about it all?

A solution I feel is inbound visas upon arrival! At each major inbound airport, we can set up tables with 12 to 20 persons staffing these tables, processing visas upon arrival. Accept cash, credit cards and travelers checks. We have to do that otherwise what if someone does not have a credit card on them? Now do we send them back?

It is time the Caricom officials wake up and realize that they have no choice but to deal with this pressing issue as the private sector would deal with it, as a sensitive commercial issue and of course security is critical but if we have no tourism industry next year then what?

It is needed to solve these problems and in order to do so, the authority should come up with some effective plan on this regard. I hope the upcoming world cup will be a successful one for the fans.