A move to display the Turks and Caicos as a potential destination for Brazilian tourists in the same city in which former premier Michael Misick was hiding out has now drawn some attention locally.
It is unclear if Ralph Higgs, who heads the TCI Tourist Board and himself manned the TCI booth, knew that Misick was in Rio de Janeiro when the ABAV Tourism Fair took place on October 24- 26, just weeks before Misick was arrested at a Rio airport, attempting to board a domestic flight.
Reports surfaced after Misick’s arrest that certain unnamed individuals in North Caicos had been sending money to him in Brazil.
Misick was apparently moving freely around Brazil and had applied for political asylum, which had been refused. When he was picked up, Misick was reportedly en route to the larger city of Sao Paulo to consult with attorneys about a possible appeal of his asylum application.
The Brazilian tourism fair is a new one for Higgs and the TCI. The display booth employed a translator to interpret inquiries from attendees in Portuguese.
Higgs’ promotional activities have been questioned locally from time to time, especially as regards his apparent failure to seek a greater share of the lucrative American tourist market, the world’s largest. The US has an ongoing number of daily flights from major airlines including American Airlines, Delta, US Airways and others. Scheduled flights arrive every day from New York, Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta and other US hubs, yet some local observers feel that the American market appears to be taken for granted by Higgs.
Last year Higgs sought new tourists from Germany when he displayed at an event there. Most American tourists book through Beaches, Club Med and other resorts. Higgs in past years promoted widely in Canada, which has only one-tenth the population of the US and is more remote. In fact, Higgs promoted the TCI in Vancouver, the farthest possible Canadian population centre. There has been no promotion of American independent and franchised travel agents since the Progressive National Party (PNP) took over the government in 2003.
In fact, during the PNP years, tourism diminished to a point where the government refused to provide tourist figures. In the second year of the interim administration, new arrival figures for stay over tourists were posted setting all time records.
On the opening day of the new parliament, just before the Misick’s arrest, the throne speech indicated that the government would promote tourism in South America. Brazil is the largest South American country.