Waterholics business hits rough times

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ALEX NEDD never imagined he would have to rely so heavily on his savings to survive at this point in his life.

At 38, the Waterholics founder had planned to be developing his brand and become a key player in Tobago’s tourist sector.

But those plans were shelved, almost a month ago, when the Government announced the lockdown on non-essential activity to combat the spread of the coronavirus (covid19).

Now, the affable businessman says he’s having to dip into his savings simply to get by.

“I have no choice but to go into my savings. What else?” he asked.

Even more frightening, he said, is the reality that the lockdown could extend beyond April 30,

“ Nedd said in an interview last week.

“I don’t know how long this thing will last, because I believe it could go on and on.”

Nedd established Waterholics at Pigeon Point more than a decade ago.

The water sport business, which has been making its mark on the island’s tourism landscape, offers activities including jet-skiing, wake boarding, water skiing, paddle boarding, dolphin watching tours and trips to two major attractions, Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool.

Over the years, Nedd has acquired a large clientele from Europe and parts of North America. As a result he was made one of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs’ influencers in its 40 Under 40 initiative.

The self-esteem initiative, which began a year ago, allows Form Four students throughout TT to engage with young people who have distinguished themselves in various areas, including sport, entertainment, media, the arts and academia.

Nedd, who turned his love of the sea into a thriving business, said the long Easter weekend would usually be a bumper one for him.

“I had a lot of bookings for the Easter. And you know, when you are proactive you will take a chance. You will invest to make your money flip.

“And then covid19 hit us. So is just licks upon licks.”

To compound matters, the former Signal Hill Secondary student said he opened another branch of Waterholics at Starfish Hotel, Turtle Beach, in December and is yet to see the benefits.

“An investment was made to have that up and running. I have not even begun to see the fruits of that because this (covid19) come and happen.

“That hotel is closed and I have to remove all of my stuff, which I have just invested in again.”

The usually active Nedd said he is spending his time making periodic visits to his Pigeon Point outlet to check on his equipment.

The Scarborough native said he is also waiting to see how the Government or the THA plans to address the problems confronting stakeholders in tourism.

He said the reality on the ground is that people are struggling.

“I have four employees and they all had to be sent home, and everybody has bills and rent to pay. The Government wants landlords to ease up on people, but the reality is that landlords eh want to hear that.”

Nedd said he has reservations about the Government’s plan to pump some $50 million into Tobago’s tourist sector to enable hoteliers and guest house operators to refurbish their establishments in preparation for business after covid19.

He likened this initiative to a vehicle and its engine.

“You are going to refurbish hotels. But is like you get a vehicle and you give it a best paint job and it looks good. But what happens to the engine? We eh give it a little gas, nothing.”

Nedd said the Government could at least have tried to ensure stakeholders in the sector are “at least functional and running.”

He added: “Hotels and bed and breakfasts were still functioning even though many of them may have been in need of upgrade. The stakeholders are the driving force of the economy.”

Nedd used the Coco Reef Hotel in Crown Point as an example.

“Right now, Coco Reef send home 80 to 90 per cent of their staff. Why is $50 million going to refurbishment now?”

He said the employees should have been offered a salary cut as opposed to sending them home.

“If the hotel’s employees were getting a $4,000 monthly salary, pay the staff $2,500 a month just to keep them, rather than sending them home. So whenever we recover from this (covid19) we still have a functional workforce.

“But when you have a workforce in the tourism sector running on fumes, will they really be able to catch back themselves to weather the storm? That could have been the stance taken for covid19.”

While he agrees strict measures had to be implemented to prevent the spread of the virus, which has already claimed the life of an elderly man on the island, Nedd believes the same energy that was utilised to develop a strategy to help hoteliers, could also have been used to assist stakeholders in the tourism sector.

Nedd said: “The thing about tourism stakeholders is that the business trickles down to the maxi man, fisherman. Even if Jack (random name) used to make $10 and yuh tell him, we giving you $4 a month, just to at least sustain you and handle some bills, I think society would have adhered to that and understand that, rather than you are waiting and don’t know what is going on.”

He noted before the onset of covid19, some stakeholders in the sector were already experiencing difficulties in making ends meet.

“Even with the recession, there were other means of side hustle you could have tried to pull off. But now there is nothing. The borders are closed, hotels, everything.”

Nedd, who is well known for hanging garlands around the necks of his clients, said he longs for the day he can once again take them on a cruise to No Man’s Land and the other scenic tourist destinations.

Photos courtesy Waterholics Facebook Page.

The post Waterholics business hits rough times appeared first on Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

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