“OCCUPANCY at this time is lower-than-expected,” and this mere days before the Tobago Jazz Festival.
In sounding the alarm, vice president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) Carol-Ann Birchwood-James attributed the low hotel and guest house occupancy being experienced across the island to the unavailability of travelling accommodation to get to and from Tobago.
“It’s not so good as years gone by, but it's not so bad either. In previous years, everywhere used to be full but now you can see and feel the effect of the ferry service, you just don’t have enough sailings and of course the airport at all.
"We were told there wasn’t going to be any additional flights... yes they have leased a plane, we haven’t had feedback on it as yet but putting on a plane on Good Friday only eases up who is in the airport, it doesn’t help for those people who want to come, couldn’t get a booking and decided they weren’t coming.
“Yes, we have several people on the island, but our hotels are not fully booked as we usually are with local guests,” she said adding that by the time CAL had rostered the additional flights with the intervention of the wet lease arrangement, potential visitors had already booked to go elsewhere," she said.
Birchwood-James said there continues to be no confidence in both the air and sea bridges. “The boat seems to be running. The TT Spirit seems to be running, but it's still shaky. Until you get a second reliable boat and we’re not talking about the Galleon’s Passage, a lot of people are talking about it, they don’t want to go on it, it’s taking too long.
"So until the next boat comes that can do the two and a half hours, three maximum... and that boat has to run for a few months so we can see that everything is all right,” she said.
President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association, Kaye Trotman, agreed with Birchwood-James' view on occupancy.
"Right now I only have two of my five rooms full. Last year it was the same...we have not really experienced much change. I know a couple folks who definitely don’t have (any occupancy) and a couple others may have a few, which is kind of surprising as we've been told that people are coming to the island. But where they are, we're not sure.”
Trotman said that the confidence still needs to be restored in the domestic market. “Every time we think we on the road to building it back, something happens that pushes us back.
For her part, Caribbean Airlines Communications Manager, Dionne Ligoure, said the national airline is responding favourably to demands during the season. She reported that in addition to its core domestic airbridge, CAL has entered into a wet lease arrangement with a Danish Air Transport.
This wet lease, she said will be solely dedicated to the operation of the domestic air bridge between April 17 and September 8. This as she added that ATR and the jet fleet together with the wet lease flights would provide a total of 55,316 seats from April 15 to 30, which covers the Easter and Jazz peak travel period.