Reef tour operators: What about us, Mr PM?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Reef tour operators in Tobago were left disappointed on Tuesday after they were not allowed to conduct tours, even though beaches across the country were reopened on Monday. The public health regulations still prohibit tour boats from operating.

They are now calling on the Prime Minister to allow them to work as the sector has been closed for eight months.

PRO of the Buccoo Reef Tour Operators Association, Michael Frank said the operators are becoming frustrated and disgruntled. He said the operators were told tours are still prohibited when they began preparing to carry out clients on Tuesday.

Frank previously told Newsday he had received a number of bookings from Trinidadians for his Frankie Tours reef boat.

“We can’t go out because we didn’t get authorised to use the tour boats. We are told this is happening because the government hasn’t put anything in place to start the tours back.

“We were told beaches are open for people to swim but not for any other activity.”

He said the operators thought with the reopening of beaches, other coastal activities would automatically resume.

“We are truly disappointed that they actually open beaches and still we can’t operate. Everyone was happy that after (eight) months we could operate and restart business, and then they let us know this is not our time.”

The association is calling on Dr Rowley to strongly consider them in his next move to further ease restrictions.

“We will have a meeting to decide the next course of action. We cannot continue to do down the line of not being able to maintain our business or to make money to feed our families.

“Plus it’s Christmas time, we were hoping to make something to at least put food on the table on Christmas day. That will not happen, so what will we do now?” he asked.

Frank previously told Newsday he had to lay off workers and begin farming to make ends meet during the closure of the beaches.

In a recent interview he said the closure of the beaches had a part to play in the People’s National Movement’s 14-1 defeat to the Progressive Democratic Patriots in the December 6 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.

“The closure of beaches impacted the tourism industry negatively, and I would think that at least 80 per cent of the stakeholders in the industry voted negatively against the Prime Minister.

“We felt it was unfair and that they were spiting the tourism sector, because they were opening bars and restaurants that are indoor, and closing a facility that was outdoor. And the same way they can social distance and have safe zones on land in restaurants, bars and water parks, they can do the same on a boat and the beach.”

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