Tobago Business Chamber on international flights: All planes must be full

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: ANR Robinson International Airport, Crown Point, Tobago.

The Tobago Business Chamber wants the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to ensure that international flights coming into the island are almost completely filled with passengers.

In welcoming the news that British Airways is scheduled to resume flights to the island on Monday, and Dutch airline KLM on January 29, the chamber’s chairman Martin George said, “This is a very good sign and, of course, we urge the powers that be in the Tourism Division of the Tobago House of Assembly and in the Government to ensure that we do all in our power to make these flights as full as possible with arrivals to Tobago.”

He added, “We don’t want a scenario where a flight comes in from London and you have 90 per cent of the passengers disembarking in Barbados and then just a few people remaining on board to come to Tobago, as we have seen many times in the past.”

George recalled an “infamous” flight from Brazil some years ago in which an airline landed with eight people on board.

“So it is not just a question of ‘Yes, we have flights.’

“We are happy to have flights coming back, but we want flights that are filled with visitors actually coming to Tobago. And that’s where the challenge is for the authorities.”

He said the chamber fully supports new Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris.

“We are willing to work along with her to ensure that we put Tobago back up to where it used to be.”

George recalled that before 2008, Tobago had a significant number of foreign arrivals.

“But everything just went dead after that, triggered in the main by the implementation of the Foreign Investment Act, which basically killed off direct foreign investment in Tobago.”

He repeated the chamber’s call for the repeal of the act “as one of the ways to revive and stimulate the economy in Tobago, and we call upon the THA to join us in pressuring the Government…to have that act repealed. It is anachronistic. It is obsolete. It serves no purpose.”

Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association president Chris James believes the resumption of flights to Tobago could signal a revival of the island’s tourism sector.

“It is good that we are back open to international flights and not so reliant on the domestic market. So we hope that that is successful. This should be the restart of tourism in Tobago, we hope,” James told Newsday.

Saying Tobago’s hotel sector continues to suffer, James said the island’s average occupancy rate for December was 22 per cent across all types of accommodation , of which villas enjoyed the most patronage.

James said the association is expected to meet with Burris some time next week.

“I already had a conversation with her and they certainly seem to want to collaborate with the association, so that is very good as well.”