In the past month, Tobago has lost over $1 million from cancellations by just one airline because of the State of Emergency.
THA Tourism and Transportation Secretary Oswald Williams revealed this startling figure at the post-Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday (28 September, 2011). “We have never seen this level of cancellation in all our dealings with Condor,” Williams said.
Prior to the SoE there were very few cancellations “a one maybe two on rare occasions few and far between,” the Tourism Secretary noted. As of September 26, bookings for 112 passengers had been cancelled.
The Condor Airline flies out of Germany to Tobago, then to Barbados every Monday. Williams said only the bookings to Tobago are being cancelled and not those for Barbados. Statistics from two studies which were released by the Division earlier this year showed that the average length of stay of a European visitor is 101/2 days and the average expenditure is US$139.
On average, there are cancellations of over 20 passengers per flight. “There is a flight that would have come into Tobago on Condor on 26th September. While you had the week before (15 August) 80 passengers booked to Tobago the week of 29th August, which is the first report we have after the SoE was declared, those bookings went down to 58,” Williams said.
He added, “There is one that will come here on 3rd October. The week before the SoE was declared, 75 passengers were already booked on that flight. Two weeks after, 50 passengers were booked on that flight. There is a flight that comes in on the 10th October, there were 72 passengers booked on that flight before. After it went down to 49.”
He said that the situation is not likely to get better. The SoE is not simply harmful to the 2011 Summer Season, Williams noted, but also advance bookings for Winter 2012.
THA Chief Secretary Orville London said he found it quite disturbing that the debate in the country at this time is whether the curfew should return to 9am – 5 pm. He said it should instead be on whether the SoE should be continued, because the fundamental rights of citizens are being taken away.
London asserted that the SoE is having a “deleterious effect on the Tobago economy and citizens,” He added: “There are different things that you can do to send a signal to the international community that the situation in Tobago is not a situation that should instill fear. You’ve got to understand that a tourist comes here a pleasant and memorable experience. No visitor is going to leave his country to come to a place where he believes his safety is going to be jeopardised.”
Both London and Williams noted that there are other Caribbean nations which had more crime than Tobago, but were not under a SoE. What’s more, London said he is pained because “Tobago is suffering in the same way that the rest of the country was suffering, even if in Tobago the issue of gang-related crime, which was one of the major reasons why we have a SoE, – not only that it was minimal, but it was non-existent, based on the statistics.”