Secretary of Tourism Tashia Burris, right, presents Jamaican reggae artiste Koffe, centre, with a portrait done by Shamari Richardson, at the International Jazz Festival, Tobago in April. – File photo/David Reid
Tobago is on a growth path to recovery following the covid19 pandemic, says THA Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris.
Burris was speaking on Thursday during the budget debate for estimates for financial year 2023/2024 at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough.
In his contribution, Minority Leader Kelvin Morris said there was a decline in the tourism sector when compared to 2021. This was rebutted by Burris, who said there is no handbook that tells how to recover a sector after a global pandemic. She said the administration already inherited a THA that was largely unproductive, “that was fraught with corruption at all levels, across all divisions – that is what we inherited.”
“Drop a global pandemic on top of that, that is a recipe for chaos. So a two per cent decline, you’re making an issue about that? That doesn’t make any sense. You know why that doesn’t make any sense? Because what our statistics show at this time in terms of the tourism sector is that obviously we are on a growth path to recovery.”
She said there was an increase in tourism’s contribution to the GDP, noting that “the administration is certainly doing the right thing to take us to the place that we need to go.”
She told Morris when he’s bringing information to the House, to ensure that it is facts and not “fax machine.” She also addressed his concerns about the appointment of Alicia Edwards as executive chairman of the Tobago Tourism Agency Limited (TTAL).
“You want to talk about there was somebody there who was a director of product development, and they have a PhD and what not, but you see you bring the gossip, and you bring the fax machine and not facts. That same individual that you’re referring to actually resigned the same time the CEO (Louis Lewis) resigned. So that when the executive chairman was appointed, he wasn’t even employed at the agency.”
In his contribution, electoral representative for Bethel/New Grange Terance Baynes said he was expecting more of a debate from Morris. He said what he heard was conjecture and inaccuracies.
“The point I am making is that this gentleman has a history of bringing inaccurate information in this chamber. I do not know whether anything that he says here we should believe, any reference that he makes whether we should believe, any document he reads from whether we should believe because he has a gift to bring inaccuracy.”
Electoral representative for Lambeau/Lowlands Wane Clarke said it is time for Tobago to be developed at all costs, as he highlighted the issue of Tobago’s autonomy.
“From the memorial to now, Tobago has been coming up with the short end of the stick. We have to try our best – this administration, at this time – because if we don’t get it right now, this is pretty much the last train. We’re not going to get it right again. Tobagonians, I want you to stand strong, be firm, look at the prize – don’t look at anything else, pretend you’re on the range and the only thing you can put your mind on is autonomy, a little equality.”