Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles on Wednesday promised Tobagonians that air and sea bridge transport problems will be resolved by next year.
Operators in the accommodation sector have complained that this July/August vacation period has been the worst ever in terms of visitor arrivals as compared to other years, with an all-time low occupancy because of problems for visitors to get to the island via Caribbean Airlines and the Port Authority’s ferry service.
Tobagonians have also been complaining of problems in getting tickets to travel, either by air or sea, between the islands.
Speaking at the weekly post Executive Council media briefing at the Administrative Complex in Calder Hall, Charles said the transport woes was one of problem solving.
“It is a long-standing issue, which means that it would have predated my administration, but I am about problem solving. I give the assurance that come next year this time, this would not happen,” he said.
On Tuesday, both Minority Councillor Dr Faith BYisrael and Political Leader of the Tobago Forwards Christlyn Moore, raised concerns about transportation between the islands, calling on CAL to reconsider the $50 change fee, which they said was clearly not working as passengers were even having difficulty getting flights on standby.
Asked for comment on the change fee, Charles said:
“I would have said to Caribbean Airlines… if your intention is to facilitate or generate or engender a change in behavior, then what you have to do is that those persons who would like to call in to cancel their bookings, should be rewarded. As it is, if you happened to call in to cancel your bookings, you still have to pay, it just does not make sense. I had said that to Caribbean Airlines, they had committed to give serious considerations to it but sometimes you know we have egos and we don’t really listen.”
He said that within the last two weeks he spoke to Finance Minister Colm Imbert so that he could give a directive to CAL, “not to remove the $50 per say but to implement a reward system.”
Charles said he has , he would have also written to Imbert requesting that CAL, through his office, to take steps to wet lease an aircraft to assist with the current problems with transportation between the islands.
“I know that the search is on, there is some difficulty given the peak season, but I know that the minister is awaiting the results of that search by Caribbean Airlines. At this time, I have a team looking at some options, which I would present to the Minister in due course,” he said.
Charles said he was prepared to take a different approach to deal with demand during peak periods.
“Clearly Caribbean Airlines is in possession of the required information in respect of what you call a heat map, and therefore you (CAL) ought to know if you can’t generate the capacity that there ought to be a lead time between when you could source a wet lease arrangement, you don’t wait until the last minute. It says a lot about the mindset of Caribbean Airlines as an institution,” he said.