The Tobago accommodation sector has been seeing a slow but steady increase in occupancy rates, thanks to Trinis who have had to “staycation” in the country instead of travelling abroad.
Hoteliers and other hospitality providers are yet to receive their grants for upgrades, however.
In accordance with guidelines for the “new normal” influenced by the covid19 pandemic and set by the Ministry of Health, the sector has implemented new safety measures.
At last week’s post-Executive Council media briefing, THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis declared that Tobago is open for business.
Managing director at Magdalena Grand Beach and Golf Resort Vinod Bajaj said the momentum is building, saying it was very good.
“We are blessed, we’re seeing the momentum for the local market. We’re getting a little surge here, we’re excited and we are getting a lot of calls as we’re doing some promotions.
“We’ve managed to do some partnership packages with Caribbean Airlines so on weekends we’re offering the rooms as well as the air transport. That’s really popular, so we’re doing very well there,” he said.
Manager of Blue Horizon Kameel Ali said compared to the last couple of months, things are improving.
“Since things have opened up, it’s picking up slowly but surely…August is looking very good…right now we have about 60-70 per cent occupancy for August. We had about 40 per cent for this month.
“But we’re still thankful. We’re really hoping that things don’t change,” he said.
Last year at this time the hotel had 100 per cent occupancy, he said.
“Tobago started picking up back at a slow pace. Right now, we have about 25 per cent occupancy and while we go on to the month later on, we’ll go on to about 50 to 60 per cent.”
At Blue Waters Inn, general manager Christopher Jhita said the hotel has 15 of its 38 rooms available.
“I am pleased to say that the Trinidadian market especially have patronised (us) very well. They are continuously booking, trying to get their little staycations, as that is the best they can do as the borders remain closed. And so we have been giving that service that they expect.”
Vice president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) CarolAnn Birchwood-James said July was slow, and she still doesn’t know what to expect for August.
“We do have some bookings for August, but with the upsurge in the corona cases over the last week/two weeks, we’re already having quite a few cancellations,” she said.
Newsday learnt that the $50 million grant facility funded by the government to allow Tobago hoteliers to upgrade their hotel rooms is yet to be disbursed. Birchwood-James described that process as slow.
“They’re going on very slow. We’re very disappointed… we are hoping that they would start disbursing these monies very soon,” she said.
Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) CEO Louis Lewis said the process is ongoing.
“We received a number of applications and we’re about to initiate the process of actually granting the awards. Our ambition is to have this done within the next week,” he said.
He acknowledged that the process has indeed taken a long time, and explained why.
“We have to ensure that we did it right, and we had to put a number of systems in place to ensure that we allocate the funds to the properties that fall within the categories that were required. It has been a lot of pressure internally for us to develop this process, but we are in a place where we can start to make disbursements very soon from now,” he said.