The Castara Tourism Development Association reported a bumper Christmas season in terms of occupancy as did Plantation Beach villas in Black Rock, but other operators in the accommodation sector struggled to fill rooms.
A representative at the 24-room Kariwak Village Hotel in Crown Point reported a 25 per cent occupancy rate for the Christmas holiday, and that hopes for last minute reservations bdid not materialise.
Another hotelier in Crown Point told Newsday Tobago he was “surprised that the level of booking was so bad at this time.”
“In previous years, we would see families actually coming to Tobago by the ton-loads to spend that Christmas/New Year’s period - an excuse to get away from the hustle and bustle.
“This year, occupancy is lower than 2017, or as a matter of fact, lower than anything that we’ve ever experienced,” he said. He said travellers must have confidence in the transportation system between Trinidad and Tobago.
“The level of confidence that has been eroded over the year has been so deep that we really have to extend our efforts in Tobago but only time can really change that and probably Christmas/ New Year’s was not the best time to fully regenerate that,” he said.
Meanwhile at Plantations Beach Villas, spokesperson Sean Clarke said that the villas were fully booked for the season.
“We are full, and I am happy to say that the first four months of this year look a lot more encouraging than we’ve seen in the last five or six years. We’re seeing some very nice numbers, so we hope that that continues throughout the year, but the first four months are very encouraging,” Clarke said.
In Castara, Brian Taylor, President of the CTDA, said hoteliers a recorded a 90 per cent occupancy for the Christmas period.
“Castara is doing very well, we were quite full to be honest… we recorded in the vicinity of 90 per cent during the Christmas and New Year period,” Taylor said.
Chris James, President of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA), saying the Association didn’t yet have occupancy figures for the Christmas/ New Year period, 2018 was overall a difficult year for the industry.
“International arrivals as of September 2018 declined a further one per cent, totalling 14,672 compared with September 2017 with 14,752 arrivals. Figures also show a reduction in the number of passengers transported on the air bridge which totalled 881,486 in November 2017 but dropped to 856,665 for November 2018 - a reduction of 24,821,” he said.
Stressing that cancellations of sailings on the seabridge continues to affect the sector “very badly,” James also noted that the drop in passengers for August was 159,613 from 377,084 in August 2017 to 217,471 in August 2018.
He compared this to August 2014, when 672,837 passengers were recorded as travelling on the sea bridge.
“This has of course led to a further decline in occupancy with hotels registering an average of 30 per cent down in 2018, (three per cent less than 2017) and guesthouses registering an average of 23 per cent, (one per cent less than 2017),” James said.
He is hopeful that 2019 will bring better fortunes for the sector with a Sunwing flight from Toronto, Canada, which started on December 20 and runs until April 25, and the return of Thomas Cook along with continued flights from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Caribbean Airlines and Condor International.
“The Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd is rolling out its ‘Road Map for Growth’ plan which we hope will be fully funded and implemented and timelines adhered to. The THTA has had its own social media campaign which has been very successful,” he said, adding that greater collaboration with TTAL and the Tourism Division was needed to get the industry on a much-needed path to growth.