The Tobago Hotel & Tourism Association (THTA) is reporting a further decline in domestic arrivals for this July-August period compared to the same period of previous years
THTA President, Chris James, who said data was still being compiled for the period, said the ongoing problem with reliability of the sea bridge has severely depleted the capacity achieve by Tobago’s hotel sector over the last few years and much work must be done to regain the confidence of the domestic traveller.
“Caribbean Airlines has added flights, but this could never fill the gap left by the reduced capacity on the sea bridge. In fact, the capacity needed remains unknown. If visitors had confidence in both the air and sea bridge services and the movement between Trinidad and Tobago was easy, it is the Tobago Hotel & Tourism Association’s belief that the economic benefits both to Tobago and Trinidad, in terms of jobs and tax collection, would serve as a real boost to the economy of the country,” he said.
Various operators in the accommodation sector also blamed the se bridge for reduced occupancy and therefore reduced income.
Desmond Spence, owner of Spence Holiday Resort at Crown Point, described visitor arrivals as “terrible,” describing the income being earned as “just enough to pay staff.”
Spence, who runs a 27-room self-contained apartment, said bookings haven’t been steady, and cancellations are coming in.
“We have one and two cancellations daily, but this year as compared to previous years, is the worst. This year it not nice at all, the problem is that people are kind of scared too…they don’t want to take the chance and come here and then when time to go back they can’t get to go back.
“Once people could get confirmed tickets to and from, they would come but no confirmation means no visitors,” he said.
He added: “Some of them are even saying to me that it is easier for them to get to Canada or even Miami than to get between the island, they are more willing to take that chance because at least they are getting confirmed tickets.”
Other establishments reported similar stories – the struggle to book rooms for the July/August period blamed on visitors not having confirmed tickets.
“And even with confirmed tickets, Trinidadians not taking the chance to come here. They can easily go to another island that is cheaper and has a booming tourism. Why travel to Tobago when you have to take a whole day to get here and maybe two to three days to return,” one operator said.
Declaring that he was tired to saying the same thing every time, an Operations Manager at yet another establishment in Crown Point, who also described this July/August period as ‘the worst ever,’ said the 24-room establishment where he works was barely able to fill ten rooms on a weekly basis, except for a few reservations for two or three of the weekends in this holiday period.
“Normally, we would have been fully occupied for the entire of August, because Trinidadians come to Tobago with their entire families and they come in throngs. We’re into the first week of August and currently, we have approximately five full and one and two are full more or less on the weekends, and that’s it,” he said.
“Our guests are now saying they are not confident that they could come over without facing any issues. Many of our visitors are trying to avoid the headache,” he said.
At Rainbow Resorts, also in in Crown Point, a spokesperson said that of the 14 rooms at the property, only two would be fully utilised during this vacation period.
“We have resorted to only taking walk in guests… the thing is people are booking but then they cannot get confirmed tickets to get here. They are reporting that the airline is not selling any tickets and well, as to the boat, we have heard that it is sold out. “That is the position that we are in at this time, so we are now forced to wait and see and just take them (visitors) as they walk in,” he said.