One stakeholder, on Friday told Newsday Tobago that the industry definitely needs a turnaround.
The stakeholder, who preferred to remain anonymous said that Tobago’s tourism sector is in crisis and steps must be taken to revive the industry.
“If not now, when… but the tourism industry definitely needs a turnaround. We have to do it quickly, because from what we are seeing, we always know that the July/ August time which is usually the busiest period would have been difficult. We actually need to do the hard work on diversification and Tobago’s role in the tourism sector now,” he said.
He pointed to the current impact of the inefficiency of the Air Bridge and the Sea Bridge, as he noted that these are the major factors threatening the industry.
“Day in and day out, we are faced with the woes of the transport situation, which I would consider to be one of the major factors contributing to a crippling industry. On a daily basis, I am faced with cancellations and the reason the guests are giving, the boat didn’t sail, the sailing is delayed, their flight has been delayed, you name it. When that happens, we lost income, we have to in most cases refund the guest if a deposit was paid and I am telling you, this has indeed done its damage as some business owners have already lost their properties and others have been forced to close because of the ongoing problems,” he said.
He stated that at this time business owners are now forced to make a choice between keeping staff, paying taxes or meeting loan commitments to the banks because there is no way we can do everything in light of the situation. With that, he is calling on the Government to also consider the value which local tourism brings to the economy.
Meanwhile, another stakeholder, 84-year-old Ken Patino, owner of Enchanted Waters and Patino’s Restaurant is calling on the Government to be proactive rather than reactive.
“The Tourism situation on the island needs some help, I think that the Government should make an intervention and do something. I thought the situation was right with a PM who is Tobagonian, a Tourism line Minister who is Tobagonian and the Secretary is Tobagonian. I figured that all the systems was in place, so we were looking for really good things coming out of the Tourism sector. I am very optimistic that the situation would turn around but it will take some time. A lot of mistakes and missteps were made along the way and we have to clean up our act and get things going again,” he said.
Just over one week, Patino was threatened about foreclosure on his property, but today, he is breathing a sigh of relief.
“They didn’t put up the listing for sale but our place wasn’t included. I am relieved because it did take a huge amount of stress off me,” he said.
Patino said to date he has been able to make two payments on his mortgage and is willing to settle the balance once the funds become available.
“What is very interesting is that last week when they had said that they were going to advertise the property for sale, they phoned back and the guy discovered that I had $96,000 in my bank account. He asked me if he could take two payments for the two mortgages and I said go ahead and do it, he said it would have amounted to $72,000and I told him to take it and he did take it. That is evidence that the bank took payments after they made the threats for the advertising, they took two payments and that tells me that while we are in default, there is monies available and they are willing to work along with us,” the owner said.
Patino is hoping that the bank will give him some extra time as he has plans to sell his other property at Mt. Irvine and use the monies to pay off his mortgage.
Meanwhile, Kelvin Parker, owner of Bismarkia Apartments has given up all hope.
“As far as the building, it’s just sitting there right now, the bank owns it obviously because I couldn’t make my mortgage and I have come to the realization that this is not something that I want to keep fighting anyway, so I have really closed the book when it comes to the building,” Parker said.
In the interim, Parker is still committed to meet with his lawyers to get the funds owed to him by the Government.
“I am now left here holding the bag because the Government apparently is not paying its full monies, what they owe me is $675,000 and I just got a cheque from them for $175,000, I don’t know what that means because it didn’t come with any letter or statements of any kind, so I am actually seeking my lawyers’ assistance with this right now,” he said.
To date, one of the biggest tour operators on the island, Island Girl, has left and gone to Jamaica.