Things are looking up for Tobago’s tourism sector.
This according to Secretary of Tourism and Transportation Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine, who supported her claim with statistics during the Face to Face community meeting series at the Lowlands Multi-Purpose Community Centre on Thursday (March 17) night.
She was responding to a claim by a local businessman that occupancy at hotels and guest houses on the island, as well as visitor arrivals, are down.
The Deputy Chief Secretary said over 590,000 people annually stay over at hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and guest houses in Tobago. This includes domestic arrivals, as well as international visitors to the destination.
The figure, Davidson-Celestine said, compares favourably with other Caribbean countries with a strong tourism industry. Antigua and Barbuda, she said, has close to 320,000 visitors and in Barbados the figure sits near 500,000 yearly.
She said arrivals by cruise ships to the destination have significantly increased over the last three years from 60,000 to 90,000 passengers to date.
Davidson-Celestine said: “If we are to take into consideration the domestic persons from Trinidad plus the international visitors that come to Tobago as well, the statistics will show that well over one million persons come to Tobago on a yearly basis.”
The Secretary said properties across the island are being upgraded, such as the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel, Blue Waters Inn—which has done significant renovations over the last year— and Sheppard’s Inn (with 100 per cent occupancy).
“When you make a general statement that tourism is on the decline you have to be very careful, you have to pay close attention to the statistics, which show that tourism is on the increase,” she added.
The Deputy Chief Secretary said international airlift is on the rise, with a number of returning airlines. British Airways has moved from one to two rotations per week, while Virgin Atlantic has returned and now Condor Airlines has moved from one to two rotations a week from Frankfurt and Munich, she stated. In addition, she said, Caribbean Airlines has a weekly service from Tobago to New York, GOL Airlines from Brazil are on board, and there are several flights from Trinidad to Tobago.
She told her audience comprising mainly of constituents of Buccoo/Mt Pleasant that “all indications are that tourism is doing well but the challenge is, in tourism we need all hands on deck, it cannot be the sole responsibility of the Assembly or the Division of Tourism, the whole tourism sector must be involved, the people must be involved.”.
Davidson-Celestine said one key area that needs to improve is customer service.
She stressed: “If we pay close attention to the statistics we are doing much better but we can do better if all hands are on board and everybody play their part in the process.”
Davidson-Celestine said crime against tourists on the island has dropped significantly and by the last count it was 76 per cent.
Buccoo/Mt Pleasant Assemblyman Ancil Dennis also presented a report on his achievements and his future plans for the constituency.