LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Where is Tourism Minister Tonge?

letter to the editorDear Editor,

It’s been a week now since the Caribbean Tourism Association (CTO) released statistics on region’s performance in the tourism sector in 2015.

I’ve looked at the statistics myself and compared to other Caribbean islands, Dominica’s performance can only be described as ‘dismal.’

Late last year, as I can recall, Dominica’s performance in a cruise ship survey was nothing to write home about. In that survey an overwhelming number of people who responded said they were not satisfied with destination Dominica and many say they will not recommend a land-based or resort vacation on the island to family or friends and will not return in the next three years.

In response, Tourism Minister, Robert Tonge, said in October that a Revised Tourism Regulation would be tabled at Parliament’s next sitting which will give the Ministry of Tourism the power to hold people accountable for not adhering to the service standards of Dominica.

Following this pronouncement, to my knowledge nothing has been heard from Tonge since.

Now, the new report by the CTO, which sadly was neglected by the media in Dominica (except for DNO which had two articles), shows Dominica’s tourism performance was below par and we are yet to hear from Tonge on what strategies he has in mind to move us out of this doldrum.

Let us take a look at Dominica’s performance, as compared to some of our immediate neighbours.

Stop-over arrivals:

Stop-over arrivals to Dominica contracted by 0.3 percent to 48,154. Now statistics were available for Dominica from January to July 2015. That was before Erika, so we cannot blame the storm for this.

Stop-over arrivals for St. Lucia (January to December) grew by 2.0 percent; St. Vincent (January to November) by 5.4 percent; Grenada (January to November) by 6.3 percent.

This shows that only Dominica experienced contraction in stop-over arrivals in 2015, while our neighbours seem to be doing fine.

Cruise ship visitors:

For January to December 2015, cruise ship arrivals to Dominica contracted by 2.5 percent as compared to 2014.

St. Lucia grew by 5.6 percent and Grenada grew by 19.6 percent.

However, we can take comfort that cruise ship visitors to St Vincent dropped by a massive 6.7 percent.

Based on these statistics, Dominica’s tourism product has contracted in both stop-over and cruise ship arrivals. In other words, our product is not doing well.

That is why I am asking that we hear from Mr. Tonge on what strategies he has in mind to move the product forward.

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  1. Just saying
    February 26, 2016

    Where is Minister Tonge?? On facebook…Sharing posts; showing off his dinner date with is wife; showing off how he cleans city. Kudus Mr. Tonge..You are doing an awesome job

  2. mastiff
    February 25, 2016

    Well first of all let’s not forget that TS Ericka messed up everything for a long time… but this can all be solved with a simple, and natural plant, marijuana. Dominica needs to move forward with plans to legalize the plant. The minute we legalize is the minute all the flights to Dominica is full, for years to come.

  3. Frank Talker
    February 25, 2016

    I think I’ve read about Robbie well enough to say that he has good intentions as a Minister of Government. I believe he has stick-to-it-ive-ness to commit himself to see things work out, and he is sincere and generally truthful, but I am not so optimistic about his capacity to lead a government ministry. His understanding of public administration/governance is limited, and so too is his exposure to public sector thinking. The pubic sector is dysfunctional and therefore cannot provide leadership to transform the country. If Robbie is sincerely concerned about the direction our lovely island is taking, he should remain in the private sector, and be the tail that wags the dog. He does not fit a laid-back public service; his best advice will be frustrated by his team members, and non-cooperative public officers will him up.

  4. LeavingIslandAnyTime
    February 25, 2016

    Kudos to all the commenters who have commented so far. I love the positive but educational advice that each one has given! I agree with everyone… Dominica has so much potential but the country is not marketed in the right way due to the lack of funding being the primary issue… Another issue would be an inexperienced head of department… but as a business man Robert Tonge knows how things work… if you don’t have what people want they would not buy or come to your store/island etc… it’s that simple do the research, collect the data and take your your time to analyze the information and find solutions to eradicate the problem… Therefore saying that he cannot do the job is just madness… it may not be his strong suit but as a business man I am pretty sure there are certain aspects of business/management that he can use in regards to tourism… Another troubling problem would be the disconnect between organizations such as Discover Dominica, DFC and DHTA.

  5. Tjebe Fort
    February 25, 2016

    Robby Tonge lost his tongue!

  6. Driver
    February 25, 2016

    I am not supporting The Minister here, because he doesn’t deserve any. However, our people do not seem to understand what tourism is all about. We need to be patient and develop sites and establishments that people will want to see or to participate in doing. We also need to want our fellowmen to prosper. The same way that the people used to be upset when the trucks and pick-ups used to tie up the road on banana days, is prevalent on Cruise Ship days. In other words, those who don’t see a direct benefit in it, don’t mind if it never happened.

    • Tjebe Fort
      February 25, 2016

      Come on man, be patient ??? For how long?/Is twelve years since master Skerrit in charge and all we have seen is deterioration. Be real. Everybody fed up and tourist arrivals going down.

  7. Jenu
    February 24, 2016

    Hello people. What about the CEO who is there more than 10 years?
    If the minister has to go..so does the CEO of Discover Dominica.
    What has this guy done for tourism? He is not liked. He is not a sociable guy.
    We need an audit into the DDA.
    He makes more money than the minister for doing absolutely nothing.
    Time to wake up Dominicans and smell the coffee. Levee

    • Titiwi
      February 25, 2016

      I happen to disagree. Mr. Piper was appointed as CEO of Discover Dominica in Feb. 2009 and has been in that job for 7 years. He has the qualification, MBA (marketing, finance,strategic management) as well as a BA from the Univ. of Minnesota and has practical experience gained with leading international companies Granted, he may not be the most excitable man on the social circuit but he knows his onions. His job is a frustrating one, with limited budget allocation and constant interference from politicians from “high up” – particularly the sixth floor. Believe me, I would not want that job for all the tea in China.

  8. Shameless
    February 24, 2016

    Last year when the statistics came out I said in this forum that heads should roll. Robbie has no business being Tourism Minister. This was a purely political move to tackle Joseph Issac head-on but it has backfired. Roseau continues to smell even after DLP had a plan in place and ready to make it the envious capital in the entire caribbean. What a darn joke :mrgreen:

    Having said that I must also be fair to Robbie and say that he cannot accomplish anything without the necessary resources, money, largent, dinero! The country is flat broke and therefore it will only get worst. Robbie need to bail now and save his reputation. Yes the salary is good extra cash but why loose your life’s reputation over it? They say misery likes company so Skerro and the cabal will use Robbie until kingdom come. Sad, sad, sad. :cry: :cry: . Personally I like Robbie but tourism and or politics is not his thing. Time to bail.

    Run, Robbie run before its too late!

    Always Assertive! :twisted:

    • Barbara Saunders
      February 25, 2016


      Try giving a lecture to Dominicans who insist on dropping their garbage wherever they finish with what they were eating, be it on the steps of a business place with a garbage disposal bin within 3 yards, or on the steps of a church building or a dwelling house, or right next to the garbage bin.

      Try assisting fellow Dominicans to be less foul-mouthed about everybody and everything day in and day out. Try helping them to understand that neither Dr. Skerrit (smile) nor Mr. Tonge for that matter is Dominica, so they are not necessarily the ones who will get hurt when Dominica fails as some of us so gleefully pray for everyday.

      Finally try helping the aspiring Tonges and Skerrits to give us a daily menu of plans, programmes and solutions rather than the disgusting displays which grow more creatively bizarre with each occurrence. Perhaps then we will begin to envisage some light at the end of the tunnel. Try to speak life and light and joy, not doom and gloom!

      • Shameless
        February 25, 2016

        Babara, I am one who holds people in position accountable. Robbie is the one responsible for our Tourisn product and you can see the writing on the wall. He has failed, two years in a row. So all your ranting does not address the issue. If he cannot perform he should go.

        For your information Robbie and I went to the very best school in Dca, the Prestigious St. Mary’s Academy 8) and were in the same class so I know Robbie very well. Good guy with a big heart for people and country but not a politician or minister. Further, he knows absolutely nothing about tourism. Yes he may be able to talk the talk but cannot walk the walk. Time for him to walk out…

        Always Assertive! :twisted:

  9. Just Me
    February 24, 2016

    This is what Dominica gets for a sorry excuse of a Minister. Pure rubbish. I guess Mr. Tonge is busy writing his calypso for next year and therefore does not have time for his Ministry, the CTO and the dismal statistics.

  10. d-a born
    February 24, 2016

    What else is new? Dominica’s so called ministers just there collecting salaries and making speeches. I’ve said it time and time again, running a country is like running a corporation. You have to find ways to keep the company afloat, properly manage your department, find ways to increase revenue and in certain cases, explore new ventures. These guys, from top to bottom either aren’t qualified for their positions or are ineffective. No strategic planning, no research, no data analysis, nothing. But the lesser educated citizens, family members and leaches cling to them, wear their party colors and put hand in fire for them every time.

  11. Chris
    February 24, 2016

    He has no strategic plan, he’s Tourism Minister, he gets salary at the end of the month and life goes on. Because De Country Nice Boy!

    • d-a born
      February 24, 2016

      Pretty much. That’s how all of Dominica’s ministries are run.

    • Me
      February 25, 2016

      Don’t forget the diplomatic passport all ministers get!

  12. Funny haha
    February 24, 2016

    I have never bothered to post my comment before but on occasion as a regular visitor to Dominica, the home of my parents I have to agree with some of the comments made. I will tell you what is wrong with the state of tourism in Dominica
    1. Getting there, LIAT is the worst airline on earth
    2. Dominicans do not realise what a gem of an island they have
    3. Dominicans have not accepted tourism as a positive thing
    4. The minister of tourism is unimaginative and is not competent do the job that he is paid to do
    5. Roseau needs a total face lift
    6. There is No Where to go in the evening
    7. Look at what Barbados has got, Oistins
    8. Look at St Lucia, Grose le
    9. Pay too dollar for change agent and you will see progress

    • Dominican
      February 24, 2016

      6, 7, 8 My daily cry. Stop over makes the money but what do we have to stop over for? Even the day sites, they only develop the ones in the south when the rest of the island has so much wonder even the islander know nothing about. Everything you say here is on point and the minister should record it. We don’t make any money from the cruises, the money goes to the cruise people its a total waste

  13. Jack
    February 24, 2016

    It’s not only his ministry that is failing. Tourism requires a country to be a functioning one for all it’s people. Our institutions are poorly managed and as such we see the breakdown of the society.
    Lawless young men on scooters, loud music in every nook and cranny, garbage left on the roads for weeks, litter a way of life, paros in abundance, vendors blocking every sidewalk in shanty erections, the courts are a mockery of justice. Etc etc
    This country is turning into one big ghetto!
    So is this any surprise?

  14. Seminole Ave
    February 24, 2016

    One of factors why Dominica will continue to headline the Poorest and most backward Caribbean island is the issue of their stakeholders and so call policy makers unable to raise the bar…

    Many lack National Pride, carry way too much personal ego, thus the island is unable to be looked upon as a leader in any sector, Corruption is praised by at least 65% of the Society on island, their is no checks and balances period, one u back the Labour regime u have the complete right to do anything and will be protected..

    Dominicans are not at the level period, a few may have some documents of higher education but in terms of production and success stories overall as a nation, they are missing in action at all angles…

    Dominicans are generally evil and wicked to their very own, thus progress will not be something that can be looked upon with Class in Dominica…

    So the records will continue to tell a dismal story as mediocrity is the best practice known to each and everyone in…

    • Gary
      February 25, 2016

      Your unsubstantiated opinion shows the working of an irrational mind, wow. Why would you write and believe such nonsense, yes nonsense, that’s what it is. When you are fast to highlight the weaknesses of other people it can also be the quickest way of exposing your own weaknesses, one of which is your inability to
      think in a rational manner.

    • Lang Mama
      February 25, 2016

      The truth is our society has been molded in to one of mendicancy. The mentality now is that Skerrit will provide. The provision that our society envision is a hand out here and there for top up, uniform, to pay electricity bill once or twice a year. That is the mentality of the people. The government on the other keep nurturing the ” Aid is better than Trade” motive. What a way to blend public mendicancy and dependence with the deliberate government control and absolute loyalty. Now how can a country become productive in any sector when the people are trained to beg and depend on politicians for hand outs. Why are we pretending to be surprised at the status quo.

  15. Bayfront
    February 24, 2016

    Honestly Senator Tongue, seems completely out of touch with Tourism, to me he resides in Fantasy world unable to be clear on issues..he speaks out of tune on many issues..lacks vision and simply as a unknown factor….

    He is the weakest Minister of Tourism thus far under Labour..

    He should be fired as a matter of fact, as under his watch the industry has gone to the Dust….

  16. J Edward Doway
    February 24, 2016

    I have been working in the hospitality and tourism sector outside of Dominica from since 1976. That includes managing hotels in St. Maarten, working with developers on Antigua, Grand Cayman, Bahamas and Aruba. I have experience is every aspect of tourism development. From 2011, I have been asking the Government of Dominica, Tourism division to allow me to work with them to help promote tourism on the island. I worked as G.M. at Castaways Hotel in 1988/1989 and then as Adviser to Fort Young Hotel. Up two three weeks ago I sent my resume again to the Ministry of Tourism. I was told there are no vacancies. I look at other countries like the Bahamas and I tell myself there is nor reason what Dominica’s tourism should fail. But I am not sure if the Government and people of Dominica are ready for tourism as an industry. I am a Business Management Turnaround Specialist with a love for Dominica, but no one is ready for my participation in the development of that sector.

    • Me
      February 25, 2016

      Mr. Doway,. When they told you there are no vacancies they meant that all hotel rooms are fully booked for the foreseeable future.

    • Barbara Saunders
      February 26, 2016

      Mr. Doway

      Perhaps you can go talk to them and suggest what job you should be given which will impact the Tourism industry in the way you suggest. If you are a Dominican, perhpas you could also try providing your services without the money part as that may be the problem.

  17. Frank Talker
    February 24, 2016

    Robbie Tonge probably never held a perspective on Tourism before he was thrust into the office of Minister for Tourism. So what do we expect of him? Nothing more than a learning experience. One thing for sure, he keeps his Facebook fans updated with the gossip, his carnival costume and the presence of Steve Jobs yacht in our waters. Robbie still has not risen above his youthful days, talking about fast cars with his boyz-an-dem. Unlike Yvor Nassief, he does not command authority, respect and a listening ear within the citizenry of our country. He definitely is not the choice of a person likely to replace Joseph Isaac as the Parl Rep for Roseau. Robbie needs to become more separated from the internal politics of the DLP, and posture himself as a guy who came on board to fix things, then get out.

    • Dominican
      February 24, 2016

      I was following you post but you degressed badly! This post is nothing more than a personal attack. The joke started when you compared Tonge, A man who has run successful businesses to JOSEPH ISAAC a man who failed A BREAD SHOP!!! Bread is the fastest selling commodity in Dominica, imagine after her closed Portsmouth opened THREE MORE BREAD SHOPS. Apart from that Bread comes from many other villages and Roseau and they all sell before 4.00pm. Jeez Robby has his short comings mainly because he is new to Tourism I am guessing but hey, personal attacks will not help, you just made an idiot of yourself.

      • Frank Talker
        February 25, 2016

        You cyah be serious boy! Is this the only comparison you read in my post? Didn’t you read the comparison with Yvor Nassief too? I will say it again, “Robert Tonge is not the choice of a person likely to replace Joseph Isaac as the Parl Rep for Roseau.”
        Isaac is an entrepreneur, who created a bread business in Portsmouth and a fast food business in Roseau. He conceptualised, financed and created those businesses from scratch. Closing a business in Portsmouth does not amount to a failure. Only a clump like you can reach such a foolish conclusion. By-the-way, what successful business has Robbie Tonge conceptualised, financed, created and still manages today? What I do know is that Robbie has been a part of some businesses which no longer operate.

      • ImAnIdiot
        February 27, 2016

        I can almost taste the irony in your post. You mention the previous guy personally attacking Robbie…Then you go IN on Joseph Issac talking things I didnt even know…tsk

  18. Doc. Love
    February 24, 2016

    You have an inexperience feller which was pushed into that political situation to which he had no business being their, you are asking for him. The man has his own business concerns ………. He is being begged to stay on, to avoid an embarrassment to the Skeritt Administration, therefore don’t expect any progress soon. As a matter of fact, a young progressive and intelligent man like that, should have never accepted that political appointment. . My advice to him is to get out, before it is to late. Daddy Tonge, you are a good man, please save your son. Titanic is slowly sinking.

    • Floridian diaspora
      February 24, 2016

      It’s not just Mr. Tonge only. The labor party’s government is made up several individuals who fits the above criteria that you mentioned. No political experience and they were politically hired simply because they were popular in their villages. A prime example is Kelver in St. Joseph who doesn’t know the difference between his right and his left hand and is running his constituency like he would run his household. It simply doesn’t work like that. But I guess when your prime minister is an ordained multi-billionaire with a worthless doctor degree to show off at every chance he gets he can’t go wrong with his appointments. History has proven that when you give an inexperience pilot to fly a plane he might reach his destination if the weather is bright but when put in a turbulent situation it never ends well

      • Funny haha
        February 25, 2016

        This is the problem, sometimes you have to go outside and find the most experienced person for the job. Outside meaning not in Dominica. However this causes problems with Dominicans as they then criticise Skeritt for bringing in foreigners. Let’s get real there is skill on the island but where there is not let’s look else where. There are some brilliant post graduates out there just waiting for this kind of opportunity give them a chance.

      • Barbara Saunders
        February 25, 2016

        Floridian Disapora

        Gosh, after the first two sentences I almost thought you were talking about another person because the description was so accurate but I quickly realised that person is not part of the Labour Party manpower so I had to read again.

        That means we are in trouble all around? Politically inexperienced guys inside and on the opposite side. Thanks for the advice of history about the plane. That should guide a lot of us when making a decision as to who to allow into the corridors of government. Thanks again!

        People like you can help Robbie Tonge and Dominica by promoting Dominica’s assets rather than looking for everything negative to write about. Trust me, the tourists research the places to which they want to travel and no doubt read blogs on this site and others to get an insight into the psyche of the people. Would you come to Dominica after reading such venomous blogs like your own and those of other Dominica haters? I think not!

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