After five hours of talks on Monday, Tobago stakeholders remain hopeful that their problems will be solved.
But are they really hopeful? There were mixed views from persons who attended the meeting at the Magdalena Beach Resort.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley led a team of Ministers to a meeting with Tobago stakeholders, and at the end, some say it was fruitful.
The meeting, which was called for by Tobago Chamber president Demi John Cruickshank, was geared at finding solutions to the island’s strained tourism product after it suffered a decline in 2017 due to the problems of the air and sea bridges causing Tobago’s economy to worsen.
Cruikshank said he was pleased with the outcome.
He added, “It was a very very fruitful meeting. I think we went into detail in terms of each item step-by step, and I think the private sector is a lot clearer in terms of what the Government’s plans are for Tobago and I hope that in a very short space of time we can see the economy of Tobago on the path of growth and I hope that in the very near future we will see a resolve of a number of the issues that we as the private sector has highlighted to the Prime Minister.”
Rowley said several proposals were put forward by the Government which have not yet kicked in. He said Tobago stakeholders also offered suggestions.
He added, “Some of the proposals which they see as solutions may not be the possible answer. They tell us that they were hard-hit and we believe, by the unreliability of the connection to Trinidad, we are going to fix that and the sea ferry which is largely for the movement from Trinidad to Tobago.
“We are now looking at the possibility in the not-too-distant future having the vessels on the route, the Spirit which has been on dry dock for quite some time is expected to do some sea trials next month and hopefully if the sea trials go well it will be back into service and that will plug the hole there.”
Rowley continued, “The Express goes on dry dock and we do not expect that dry docking to be as extensive as the Spirit. We just committed to buying a third ferry and we will be owning those three vessels so we will be having three vessels available, dedicated to the Tobago routes. In a matter of months that should put an end to the passenger ferry issue.”
Rowley said that there is room for improvement on the air bridge, but mainly the utilisation of the service by citizens. He said over 1 million seats will be produced for the Tobago route
He added, “We have been producing over 1 million seats to Tobago and therefore it is wrong to say that Tobago is cut off and not serviced.
There are 14000 flights per year, I mean 14,000 flights per year that cannot be dismissed and those are subsidized flights and we want to work towards improvement and the utilization , so CAL will continue to meet with the THA.”
Rowley said between CAL and the THA and the business community “we will look at some improvement in the scheduling and of course a request was made CAL to try and bring a direct service in from North America to Tobago.
Rowley said the Sandals project was still in the pipeline. He said Tobago’s tourism sector would benefit from a Sandals investment commitment.
He reminded that a MoU exists between the Government and the Sandals brand. The project is said to be at the survey stage.
Chairman of the Tobago arm of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Demi John Cruickshank, right, speaks during the meeting. At left is Chairman of the Inter-island committee of the Tobago Chamber, Diane Hadad
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley greets Chairman of the Inter-island committee of the Tobago Chamber, Diane Hadad.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley chaired the meeting.