PASSENGERS using Grantley Adams International Airport must be made to feel welcome. They must not believe that low standards are acceptable because this is a developing country.
It is only fair that after long and often exhaustive flights, visitors will want to get through Immigration and Customs quickly to get some rest or get on with their leisure or business activities.
As a service economy dependent on tourism, we must have benchmarks for how quickly we can serve each passenger at our ports of entry. This will require proper preparation and planning, especially for arrivals when aircraft with heavy passenger loads touch down within minutes of each other. However many people arrive almost simultaneously, two and half hours to clear customs is unacceptable.
Customs officers at the airport have vital responsibilities, including maintaining security, ensuring there are no breaches in the importation of illegal substances or products, and collection of appropriate duties. But they must also know how to lay out the red carpet for every arriving passenger.
Manpower shortages caused by Government’s budgetary constraints or unresolved industrial issues are not justifiable reasons for passengers to encounter poor customer service. This is why the problems highlighted by the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association of unacceptable delays in exiting Customs must be addressed immediately.
Today’s travellers have many ways to spread a negative message about the treatment they receive in much the same way they can speak of a good experience.
Comments via customer satisfaction surveys, on social media or simply by word of mouth are sometimes hard to counteract. Barbados cannot afford to lose visitors because of a poor reception at the first point of entry. It can cost the country in many ways.
We believe the majority of customs officers are dedicated public officers who do the right thing every day. They are truly committed to making Barbados better by ensuring the customer’s experience is a smooth and easy one. But, there are exceptions and it is the Comptroller of Customs’ duty to find a quick solution where problems exist.
Those officers in supervisory positions must do their job to help ensure the lines keep moving. The trade unions representing customs officers must not defend irresponsible behaviour and should make this clear publicly. We must not tiptoe around this problem in fear of offending wrongdoers.
Customs officers must focus on their primary mission, which is to maintain safety and security at the ports of entry, and also ensure a pleasant experience for all users of the airport.