Low occupancy continues to plague the accommodation sector of the tourism industry with hoteliers and bed and breakfast operators holding out hope that the next traditionally busy season – November/December may bring a change in fortunes, and that the Galleon’s Passage may bring in the visitors.
The usually busy JulyAugust vacation period, even with several popular events, showed little upswing in bookings with hoteliers reporting that the economics were a daily frustration.
President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast Association, Kaye Trotman, told Newsday Tobago on Monday, that while the data was still being analysed, the sector has not seen any significant improvements over the July/August period.
“Folks have seen little improvement, but the little is still not enough in a bad situation. We missed what was supposed to be one of our better seasons and therefore it means that we are in a tight squeeze until the next busy season starts in November/December as September/October is usually our slow period,” she said.
Trotman, who is the co-owner of Native Abode, a bed and breakfast operation in Bon Accord, described the situation as grim for the establishment. She pinned hoped for a turn of the tide on the introduction of the Galleon’s passage to the sea bridge.
“My experience, it was still low but there were more enquires and I am hoping that the upcoming season would be better once the boat is functioning. I personally have experienced some increase in at least the enquires, so I am hoping that is a hopeful sign,” Trotman said.
On Saturday, the Galleon’s Passage made its second trial run to Tobago but faced ramp issues and was still without the required certification to operate on the sea bridge.
“It is going to take some time to win back some confidence and that is the problem,” said Trotman.
“The Galleons Passage come, and it had its own little ramp issues that made people throw their hands up in the air, so it would take some time. I think people are not going to get any sense of comfort until they see the boat running and making a difference. This is definitely going to be a case of wait and see, it will take time,” she said.
On Monday, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan told Newsday he was satisfied with the Galleons Passage’s second test run to Tobago last Saturday. He shared National Infrastructure Development Company (Nidco) chairman Herbert George’s view that the ferry made a successful berthing using its stern ramp at the Scarborough port.
Sinanan said he was advised that some minor tweaking needed to be done regarding the ramp and was confident this would happen in short order. He also said the final process to obtain the necessary certificates from the Maritime Services Department is underway.
He did not commit to giving a date when the Galleons Passage would begin operations on the sea bridge, merely saying this would happen soon. He also said the vessel would accommodate just 475 passengers of a planned 700 when it sails until the sundeck gets an enclosure which is to be installed by the seller. And though designed to transport 100 cars, none would be accommodated until a canopy is installed in that area to protect them from sea spray.