President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA), Chris James, has no confidence that a passenger ferry for the sea-bridge would be sourced in a timely manner, and expects a continuing negative impact on tourist arrivals to the island.
James, speaking with Newsday Tobago while at the consultation on the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Regulatory and Licensing Authority (TTTRLA) Bill 2017at the Tobago Nutrition Co-operative Society in Canaan on Tuesday, said the Association was very concerned about the situation with the ferry.
“If the T&T Express is to go on dry-dock soon, which is what we are hearing, we could be left without a ferry and that would affect our domestic arrivals even more than it has been affected.
“Recently, the THA Secretary of Tourism (Nadine Stewart Phillips) said that domestic arrivals have dropped by 38 percent, our figures are slightly more than that, but it was a tremendous hit for us, especially during the July/August period but really the whole year, we have had a tremendous decrease.
“With international arrivals stagnant, it is difficult to say how this new group of people, this new body (Cabinet sub-committee), can react quickly enough to satisfy the demands of the Tobago sea-bridge,” he said.
At last Thursday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, Trinidad, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, Stuart Young reported that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had mandated a four-member Cabinet sub-committee, which includes Young, and Finance Minister Colm Imbert, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte and Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe to find a ferry in the shortest possible time.
On Monday in Tobago, speaking at a sod-turning ceremony for a 20-megawatt upgrade project at the Cove Power Station in Lowlands, Tobago, Rowley said he has mandated the National Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (NIDCO) to
help acquire a passenger fast ferry for the sea-bridge, following a reported failed tender process by the Port Authority in which the Board reportedly could give no recommendation on a worthy vessel for Government’s consideration.
President of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce, Demi John Cruickshank has called for the resignation of the Port’s Board, declaring as “utter foolishness” their failure to source a passenger ferry for the sea bridge over the last year.
“It is clear that the Port Authority Board is incompetent and not capable of carrying out the functions that they are required to carry out, and I think strongly that the Port Authority members on that board should all hand in their resignations as of today, (Friday) because this is utter foolishness and to see we have to get Parliamentarians to now sit and select a boat to go back and give themselves it to vet, makes no sense in our book,” said Cruickshank.
“We have been patient, and what we did is put our trust in the Government that the Government will do the right thing. It has been going close to a year now and we are having this serious problem with inter-island transportation, especially the ferry system.
“It is clear that somebody in Trinidad is not understanding or somebody just doesn't care what is happening with the economy and the business sector in Tobago. The Tobago economy depends on the movement of people between Trinidad and Tobago, primarily by the sea bridge and to have this operation in limbo so long, is an indictment on the Government as they clearly do not understand the serious and negative impact that this is having on the economy,” he said.