International visitor arrivals to Tobago are on the upswing. Similarly domestic arrivals in 2012 were 94% of total arrivals for the period over 2011.
Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Tracy Davidson-Celestine disclosed in last week’s budget debate there were 32,895 international arrivals in 2012, up by 2% from 2011, while arrivals for the first nine months for this year there were 23,496, an increase of 1.1% over the same period last year.
She said data compiled by her Division’s research unit revealed that domestic arrivals in 2011 amounted to 962,883, up from 923,061 in 2011. For the first nine months of this year domestic arrivals amounted to 771,204. However, although cruise ship calls increased by two from 35 in2011 arrivals dropped from 44,623 in 2011 to 31,364 in 2012.
Davidson-Celestine noted that attracting new airlift to Tobago was a very costly process and as such would require the appropriate funding mechanisms to be in place. She disclosed that for the period October 2013 to March 2014 payment for services by Monarch Airlines would amount to $8.8 million, Golden Holidays $.6 million, British Airways $8.5 million, Condor $1.3 million and Kuoni-Apollo charter which will inaugurate its weekly service from Scandinavia in November $2.7 million.
She said it was anticipated that international arrivals would increase by 25 per cent with the arrival of the Apollo flight from Stockholm, Sweden. She added that the Assembly was engaged in negotiations with several other airlines to generate additional services out of Europe including Irish carrier Aer-Lingus from North of England, Air Berlin out of Germany and Caribbean Airlines with connections out of the United States via Barbados as well as from Tobago to other Caribbean islands.
Davidson-Celestine lamented that the delayed upgrade and expansion works at the ANR Robinson International Airport, which fell under the purview of the Central Government impacted negatively on airlift and said the existing airport lacked the standards of an international facility, and as such had the tendency to negatively impact main tourism businesses and other ancillary industries on the island.
She said numerous pronouncements have been made by the Prime Minister and various line ministers but the continued level of unpredictability was unacceptable and demonstrated a lack of credibility by the Central Government, to honour its commitment to improve the overall quality of the airport.
Davidson-Celestine noted that tourism was a very dynamic and competitive industry and over the last four decades, the industry had been and continued to be the main driver of the Tobago economy and by extension was integral to the transformation of Tobago.
She said according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTO), Tobago’s GDP was estimated at 36.9% and accounted for 14,000 jobs which represented 47.6% of the population. Export earnings from Tourism was also estimated at TT $990 million representing 98.4% of total export earnings. Added to this, WTTO ranks Tobago as 9th in the Caribbean in terms of Tourism’s contribution to the island’s economy and 13th in the world.