Turks and Caicos a hot topic

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The topic of Turks and Caicos becoming part of Canada is one that refuses to go away.

The idea has been floated as a win-win for both Canada — we would acquire a balmy winter playground and new trade opportunities — and tiny Turks and Caicos — which could expect greater economic development, infrastructure improvements to roads, schools, etc., and more opportunities for its 32,000 or so residents.

The latest Canadian MP to promote the idea of a union is Conservative backbencher Peter Goldring, who met recently with Turks Premier Rufus Ewing.

But whether or not the British Overseas Territory ever comes under the Canadian flag officially, the premier of the small Caribbean nation told Sun Media he would like to forge "closer ties" with Canada and welcome more Canadian visitors. (Canadians now make up about 15-20% of visitors to the islands.)

Premier Ewing also serves as the country’s tourism minister — an important portfolio in a country that ranks tourism as its No. 1 industry.

Currently most visitors come to the main island — Providenciales — and stay in condos or condo-hotels.

But Ewing says Turks and Caicos is in transition. Known for its beautiful uncrowded beaches, its excellent diving and snorkelling, and its "quiet side of the Caribbean" appeal, there are several proposals for new luxury resorts and hotels.

Ewing adds that while he’s all for attracting more wedding, conference, cruise and resort development, it’s also important to control development and select the opportunities that will be the most beneficial to the country in the long run.

Ewing also says his country has a lot of "un-realized potential" such as opportunities for eco-based adventure tourism, a "pristine and protected coastal wetland" with marshes and mangrove swamps, and an "under-exposed rich cultural heritage that has yet to be fully discovered by visitors."

In addition, Ewing suggests visitors should get out and explore some of the other islands. The country is made up of two island groups that encompass 40 islands and cays with good transportation links by ferry or charter boat.

"Taking the ferry, that’s a trip in itself," Ewing says with a smile.