PRESIDENT of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Chris James on Tuesday called for confirmation of the promised wet lease and a date for its commencement. James' comments follows Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation Nadine Stewart-Phillips revelation during a recent news conference that Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles and Minister of Finance Colm Imbert were discussing the topic.
Imbert also addressed the issue after a Caribbean Airlines aircraft crashed into a wall last month while being taxied for maintenance at the Piarco International Airport. The Finance Minister said CAL and Liat had been engaged in discussions already to lease an aircraft for the busy Easter and July/August periods.
He said, “So I have asked them to accelerate and finalise that arrangement, whether it is with LIAT or another provider. The airbridge will have its full complement of aircraft in the shortest possible time and so the aircraft will be available for regional service which are done by the ATRs."
Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, James said, “We are yet to be informed on what is happening with regards this wet lease. At this time, the THTA is eagerly awaiting the announcement of the date of the wet lease for the airbridge. We need the wet lease... if we want to increase numbers to Tobago, we need more airlift and seabridge. We haven’t heard any update, all we know is what was quoted in the papers, but we need some information.”
James said he agreed with the Prime Minister’s assessment of the Tobago economy. Speaking on a recent morning programme, Dr Keith Rowley said Tobago’s economy was “plodding along...and the Government is taking steps to fix it.” Rowley is also quoted as saying that Trinidad is very important to Tobago’s tourism industry, as he noted that destination marketing is critical domestically and internationally.
James said all efforts must be made to regain the trust of the Trinidad travelling market.
“Unfortunately over the last four years, we’ve seen a 50 per cent decrease from over a million passenger journeys, but we need to rebuild that confidence with Trinidadians coming here.
“Once we can improve the visitor experience between Trinidad and Tobago, I am confident that we can return to the arrival numbers we had before. The THTA also agrees that destination marketing is critical and should be increased in both our domestic and international originating markets,” he said.
James said the seabridge service is very critical to get the numbers anticipated.