Is Government truly concerned about marketing Tobago?
This is the question being asked by vendors at the Store Bay Beach Facility, Crown Point, three years after they first complained to former tourism minister Shamfa Cudjoe about upgrading the existing infrastructure at the facility.
“I don’t know when that day will come,” one male vendor said.
“This is a key place in Tobago and some attention should be paid to it.”
Cudjoe, the Tobago West MP, has since been replaced as tourism minister by Randall Mitchell.
She is now the sport minister, replacing Darryl Smith, who was fired on sexual misconduct allegations, several weeks ago.
The vendors said while it may be early days yet for Mitchell, they are still holding out hope he would assist them in upgrading the facility.
The facility is equipped to accommodate 34 vendors, but the booths are hardly ever fully occupied, mainly because some of the vendors are employed otherwise.
Speaking to Newsday Tobago on the condition of strict anonymity, the vendors said the structures are flooded out whenever there is heavy rainfall so much so that items are sometimes destroyed.
“But she (Cudjoe) never came to place when it was flooded out,” he said, adding the situation also created an eyesore as huge puddles of water were often formed within the facility.
A female vendor, who travels overseas from time to time, claimed she has never seen Tobago being marketed overseas.
“You hear Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia but you never hear Tobago unless somebody does well in a sport or something,” said the vendor, who has worked at the facility for about eight years.
“There is no advertising to get the thing out.”
The newly-formed Tobago Tourism Agency is now responsible for marketing the sister isle.
It was established following the government’s decision to do away with the Tourism Development Corporation and create two separate entities to market Trinidad specifically and Tobago.
The vendors, most of whom sell craft items and other merchandise, also said the recent problems on the sea bridge, had placed additional hardship on their already struggling businesses.
“Anybody that has not been affected by the sea bridge, they must be the captain of the boat,” one said, adding the situation has prevented people from coming to the island.
“Even if people just used to come before, without buying anything, for a long time, we weren’t even seeing anyone.”
The vendors said the economic downturn also was affecting their businesses.
“Things real hard. It not like long time,” said the male vendor.
“We used to have a tourist season long time but now all that done.”
However, he said the July-August vacation still remains the best period for business.
“We just have to come out here, fight it and hope for the best.”
Store Bay, one of Tobago’s leading tourist destinations, is located minutes away from the Arthur NR International Airport.
Apart from its resplendent beaches, Store Bay is one of the few places in Tobago where people can get an assortment of indigenous, wooden craft items and unique souvenir items.