Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James wants to discuss plans for the sector with the new THA administration. – Photo by David Reid
Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) vice president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James is hoping the new Farley Augustine-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) administration will meet with hoteliers and other businessmen early in the new year to discuss the future of island’s tourism sector.
“Business is in a difficult situation in Tobago and in the new year, the new team will have to talk to the business community. They should have done that already because they have to hit the ground running,” she told Newsday.
“They have to talk to the stakeholders in order to jumpstart tourism. We cannot wait for 2023. Our hoteliers are in dire straits and we need to get this tourism economy moving.”
Birchwood-James said the association has already sent correspondence to Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris making recommendations with respect to revitalising the sector.
“We have received an acknowledgement from the secretary of tourism but no one has spoken to us and called us in an industry that is in dire straits.”
Birchwood-James reiterated Tobago’s tourism sector has been decimated by the effects of the covid19 pandemic over the past two years.
She added plans must be implemented to put the island on a growth path.
“We in the business community and especially in the tourism community, we are hurting and it is not through our own efforts.”
Noting there are no international flights coming to Tobago, Birchwood-James said flights between two islands are limited.
Additionally, she said the vessels on the inter-island sea bridge can only accommodate a limited number of people “and they are mainly Tobagonians doing trade.”
Birchwood-James said in order for the tourism sector to thrive, the new THA must devise strategies to expedite the rate of vaccinations.
“We have to get a control on the covid19 situation. We have to do something about our vaccination rates because whether we like it or not, vaccinations are going to be the key for us to resurrect our tourism industry.”
She added, “Our foreign guests are coming mainly from Germany and England and tour operators are not going to send guests unless hotels are basically safe zones, meaning that managers and workers have to be vaccinated.
“They are not going to send people here unless our workers are vaccinated or at least when our vaccination figures come up to an acceptable level, 70 to 80 per cent. That is going to be the reality that we face in this tourism industry in Tobago. There is no getting away from it.”
Birchwood-James said in the meantime, the island continues to rely on domestic tourism to survive.
“But our guests from Trinidad are skittish because they are watching the numbers there and they are also watching the numbers in a small place like Tobago. So, we have to get a handle on it. We have to increase the vaccination numbers and we have to somehow get that hospital to perform a little better.”