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Monday 23 April 2018
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Tobago

Tobago businesses still suffering

In the past year, Tobago businesses have suffered millions of dollars in losses, as the Government continues to battle with the ongoing seabridge problem.

As the crisis continues, business owners are now calling on the Government to step up to the plate, saying there is no hope of recovery.

Speaking with Newsday Tobago on Thursday, the business owners shared the consensus that customers, especially those from the domestic market, are just not coming to Tobago in droves as they used to.

Owner of Chef's and BBQ and president of the Crown Point Partnership Association Garvin Monzano said his business has suffered a 30 per cent decrease, which has resulted in his reducing the hours of work there.

"That 30 per cent drop in sales is because of the fact that there are not enough customers coming to the island because of the transportation system. The fact is that the ferry service is now nonexistent. Although I think that Caribbean Airlines have stepped up, they have also to cater to the ferry passengers, which has caused a clog in the number of seats that they have available.

"We haven't cut staff, because a lot of our staff have worked with us for many years.What we have done is that we've cut back on hours and we're also not taking on any new staff," he said.

Monzano said he is looking forward to an assessment of the current transport situation in the near future.

"We are being kept in the dark in terms of the two vessels; the TT Express, which has gone into drydock, and the TTSpirit, which has come out of drydock. But there is a bit of a mystery with respect what is happening with respect to the Spirit, as no one is saying anything about it; it is just not appearing on the schedule. You're hearing that it is doing sea trials and sea trials, but it is not there and the Galleons Passage will take another month to two months before it arrives, so that we are still waiting in hope, as we don’t know what will happen with the full complement of vessels.

There used to be three vessels and as a bare minimum there used to be two, but now there is just the Cabo Star, so one doesn’t really have a sense as to what would happen. But you live in hope," he said.

Owner of Bago's Beach Bar Shirley Cooke said if the issue is not addressed soon, her business will be in the red.

"We definitely do not have the volume of customers that we expected at this time of year, as we are down 60 per cent as we speak. We definitely have cut back on the hiring of staff and they are doing less hours," she said.

Cooke is looking forward to some level of reliability from the powers that be.

"To operate under this condition for the next few months is really putting us in the red and having us pay late fees on bills, so the point is that we cannot wait for months without going into receivership. We are looking forward to the next month for the most to ensure that we resolve this interisland transport and to bring some reliability to the process so that at least our domestic clients can get here."

One vendor at the Store Bay beach facilities, who declined to be identified, said the beach is literally empty when compared to previous years.

“The big problem is demand has significantly curbed because people are having problems getting to and from Tobago. That issue with the seabridge is an insult for every Tobagonian...treating people like this is not normal. This definitely needs immediate attention and an immediate fix.

"I am pained just thinking of it, It's severe because I personally cannot look further than what is happening right now. That is the main thing: where are the people to purchase stuff? We need the people to come in order to make money. That seabridge is the lifeline, it is the main thing that is life for us here in Tobago,” she said.

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