Tobago tourism stakeholders call for strict zoning laws

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd chairman Alicia Edwards – THA

Plantation Beach Villas resort manager Sean Clarke has called for zoning to be taken more seriously in Tobago.

At last Wednesday’s tourism partner forum hosted by the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL), Clarke said development should not take place without environmental considerations.

“I recently had a guest that said with all the clean, green, safe, serene, beautiful, beyond extraordinary, you leave the airport and for the first 15 minutes of (your) drive, there is not a tree. Everything is glass and steel and concrete.”

He said he avoids visiting the western part of the island as “it’s a mess and out of control to a large extent for my type of tourism.”

He claimed to have spoken to Chief Secretary Farley Augustine about the issue. “He was so excited about all the rustic bamboo bars and so on.”

Clarke also discussed the state of the rum distillery at Fort Campbellton.

“It needs some clearing up, some fixing, some picnic benches, village bar or something – those are the kinds of things our tourist are coming for. They’re not looking for big glass and steel buildings.”

In response, Chairman of TTAL Alicia Edwards said there is hope for community tourism on the island, noting that one of the most successful models comes out of the village of Castara.

“There is hope for community tourism – Castara has proven that, and I don’t know what it would take for other villages and other areas to see that, but it is something that I definitely support.”

She said an authentic Tobago experience is something that is not as polished as the product TTAL is aiming at.

“It is important that we see the beauty of the semi-vanished or the half-process and actually use that to assist in what makes us authentically Tobagonians. The wooden houses – we’re not going to do latrines and so on right now, but I understand for certain categories of tourist that is really going to make Tobagonians stand out in the local market.”

On the decentralisation of Town and Country approvals, Edwards said he is aware that some discussions took place at the Town and Country planning level.

Those discussions signalled the intention of the THA to have slightly more control over what is built and where it’s built.”

She added: “I hope that before we get to the Woodbrook (stage) and the other places where residential has become commercial by force and all of that, that we actually get some decent zoning laws in Tobago.”