Tobago stakeholders tell PM: Full reopening means max flights
TOBAGO’s business stakeholders are buoyed by the Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday that he is considering a full reopening of the country. Dr Rowley made the announcement at the Conversations with the Prime Minister series.
He noted that after analysing the covid19 data two weeks after the Taste of Carnival festivities ended, he felt sufficiently satisfied that a reopening of all sectors should be discussed.
“I am now being minded to tell the country I see no reason now not to open the country up completely,” Rowley said.
On Wednesday the Ministry of Health reported 275 new covid19 cases and three deaths.
There are just 175 patients hospitalised.
The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA), Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Tobago Business Chamber hope a full reopening of the country means resumption of a full schedule of flights on the airbridge.
THTA president Chris James told Newsday, “The THTA is very pleased that the Prime Minister is promising to reopen the economy.”
But with the Easter holidays approaching, usually a bumper period for the hotel sector, James said, “We need more flights on the airbridge to get normal occupancy. It’s eight flights (per day), and we’re accustomed to 20.”
James said occupancy rate is currently about 20 to 25 per cent.
Last Easter weekend the association enjoyed a 79.1 per cent occupancy rate with the villas on the island over 90 per cent occupied.
All flights in April, prior to Easter, have already been sold out.
Diane Hadad, head of the Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, gave Newsday her interpretation of what fully reopening means. She said, “Fully reopening means to get back with whatever we would have been accustomed to and enjoyed, but being conscious of our environment.”
She said the issue of flights must be addressed. “It is a very big issue. We need to move ourselves from eight and get back in some sort of order to what we enjoyed before – 20 per day and on weekend 30. The economy is stagnant. We need flights and our boats (in good order).”
Tobago Business Chamber president Martin George felt the decision to fully reopen should have come sooner. “It is definitely more than time for such a step to be taken. It is clear we have to accept the position – in some cases we have to live with covid and in some cases we have to die with covid.
“We can’t bury our heads and think this is going away. We look forward to the full reopening for the rejuvenation of economic for the country. The Tobago Business Chamber supports this move and will work with government and stakeholders in any way that we can.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the health sector’s readiness in case of a surge of covid19 infections, George said, “We have to take it on case-by-case basis, but as it stands it’s not going away overnight. We have to make adjustments and deal with it.”
Efforts to contact Chief Secretary Farley Augustine and Tourism Secretary Tashia Burris on whether there are any plans for Easter were futile.
BY: STEPHON NICHOLAS