Monday, May 13, 2013

Colin Hazel: Touts on the Prowl at Argyle Water Fall

Touts who have strategically placed themselves in front of the Argyle waterfall entrance are said to be posing a threat to tourists because residents are of the opinion that they are infringing on the functionality of a well-known attraction that the eastern-side of the island has to offer. Chairman of the cooperative, Collis Hazel is fed-up with the poor involvement from the police force in this matter. He told Tobago News the touts have begun to give the waterfall and its workers a bad name. The Argyle Waterfall, an established place of business operates under the Division of Tourism. It has been effectively functioning for the last fifteen years. 

To the employees and the Board of Trustees, it is known as the cooperative. It is an organization that is welcoming to visitors from all parts of the world. Nevertheless, they have been battling for many years with the issues of touts and the impeding threat the practice poses to business and the visitors to the falls. In the recent past, a visitor and his family to the falls were accosted at the entrance by a tout. The tout convinced them to take a tour with him and later charged them a price of $360 TT; but price for a visitor to the falls is: non-resident $40TT and resident $30TT. There have been other incidents of tourist being taken to the falls through the back entrance and left on their own. “One couple came back from the falls fearful, the wife sat in the vehicle afraid to come out,” said manager of the falls Inga Beckles.

The situation with the touts has become increasingly difficult to deal with as a few of the touts are reported to be regularly hurling threats that would endanger their lives. “There has been physical dealing,” said assistant manager Lanville Toppin. The touts are relentless with their dealings and find many ways to persuade visitors to go with them. Most of the touts trick visitors into believing that they are workers of the cooperative. The management of the falls told Tobago News that the battle for tourists has grown more aggressive, citing one incident when a tourist was grabbed by the arm and pulled away by a tout.

“The police are of very little help, I make that abundantly clear,” Hazel said. There were times when the workers called the police for help and they did not respond. Hazel went on to say that at times, the workers would have to say that a tourist was chopped in order for the police to respond. He said letters have been sent to the authorities for help but there has still no change.

Workers of the Argyle Waterfall are asking for help from both the police and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). “The issue is going on too long and it is bringing a threat to our tourists,” said Ken Webster, Vice Chairman of the Co-operative. They are asking that some form of security be provided to help get rid of the touts.


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