Cheif Secretary Kelvin Charles is disputing claims by the hotel association and bed and breakfast association that occupancy on the island was “average” for Easter and Jazz.
Speaking to Newsday last week, Chris James, president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) said: “It was a lot less than it used to be years ago but it remains roughly the same as 2018. For Easter, we saw a 65 per cent occupancy, while for Jazz we saw a 46 per cent occupancy with the last night – the Sunday – being the busiest.”
Average occupancy for the month of April, according to James, was 31.4 per cent, adding that there was a slight increase in international arrivals by 1.2 per cent, while there was a further decline in domestic arrivals compared to 2018.
“Now we have the wet lease, the THTA marketing team has organised a road show to C3 Mall on the 11th of May. This is to promote the next few months to the Trinidad market,” he said.
Prior to the festivities, Carol-Ann Birchwood-James, THTA vice-president, reported hotel bookings were lower than expected. In sounding the alarm, Birchwood-James attributed the low hotel and guest house occupancy being experienced across the island to the uncertainty surrounding the air and seabridge.
President of the Tobago Unique Bed and Breakfast and Self-Catering Association, Kaye Trotman, agreed with Birchwood-James’ view that the confidence still needs to be restored in the domestic market.
Contacted last Wednesday, Trotman said the situation had seen little improvements over the last few days, with occupancy ranging in the 40 per cent bracket.
She said, “The Easter period was still basically slow for most of the owners. For Jazz, the accommodation in Speyside did fairly okay but most people still got under 40 per cent for the Jazz period. I don’t know where these people are going because there seemed to be people on the island, but they are not by us.”
She said properties under her ambit may need some upgrade works in order to attract the visitors but owners are unable to access such at this time.
“Yes, we may want to do some upgrades, there may be some aspects that need it, but these people cannot access the finances to do it. They go to the banks but the banks are not giving them (loans) – the banks have no confidence in the sector.
“The thing is, if you’re not a registered property you don’t have to put up with some of the expenses that we would have to put up with in order to be registered, so you could afford to sell much cheaper. People are going to places that are much cheaper than ours. There seems to be quite a bit of Trinidadians, sometimes even foreigners, who have built houses on the island that are not a part of the association and some of those owners are not even present in Tobago and they’re renting their properties too.”
Addressing last Wednesday’s post Executive Council media briefing, THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles refuted the asssertion that occupancy was low.
Charles declared, “Tropikist for Easter 100 per cent, Jazz weekend 100 per cent, as a matter of fact, they also had last minute requests, but all rooms were gone. Bacolet Beach Club pre-Jazz 60 per cent – and that would have been the Easter weekend, Jazz weekend 80 per cent. Blue Waters Inn Easter 100 per cent, Jazz 100 per cent, as a matter of fact, I was told that they wished they had more rooms available. Mount Irvine Bay Hotel 72 per cent Easter, 61 per cent Jazz. Le Grand Courland/ Grafton 80 per cent Easter, 80 per cent Jazz. Magdalena Grand 90 per cent Easter, 92 per cent Jazz. Crown Point Beach Hotel 86 per cent Easter, 75 per cent Jazz.”
The Chief Secretary said he was unable to obtain statistics from the villa sector.
“The villa sector is a sector that we know seems to be growing but, of course, most of those villas as you know are owned by persons not living in Tobago. Additionally, if you drive around the southwestern part of Tobago, you are likely to see a number of properties under construction and the nature of those properties alone would tell you that they not residences per se.
“The question we have to ask ourselves, if in fact the hospitality sector is suffering as some people are making it out to be, what would motivate someone to invest in that sector? So as far as I am concerned, the fact that one continues to see rapid construction in this sector suggests to me that something good and positive is happening. More importantly, people are seeing investment opportunities otherwise they wouldn’t do that.”
With regard to the leased aircraft operating on the domestic market, Charles called on those within the tourism sector to find attractive ways to woo visitors.
“We have created an opportunity for those involved in the hospitality and tourism sector, particularly the accommodation subsector to exploit that availability in the sense that May and June are usually considered slow periods, but the aircraft is here and therefore those involved in that sector can in fact promote domestic travel through roadshows etcetera and through hotel packages that would allow persons to feel that they can come to Tobago at a reasonably priced package without any hassle.”