COREY CONNELLY Tobago Bureau
People’s National Movement (PNM) Tobago Council political leader Kelvin Charles says attempts by some people to rob and mistreat visitors to the island has the potential to derail the strides made by his administration in the tourism sector over the past few years.
Saying tourism continues to play a significant role in Tobago’s development, Charles urged Tobagonians to treat visitors with dignity and respect.
“We must recognise that tourism plays and will continue to play a significant part in our economic development and, therefore, when we have visitors to our island we must treat them with the dignity and the respect they deserve. We must never seek to rob them as some of them seem to have been doing,” he said.
Charles made the statement on Sunday while addressing supporters at the launch of his campaign for the party’s January 19 internal election at the Black Rock Hard Court.
His campaign launch, titled 2020 & Beyond: On Track, No Turning Back, featured entertainment by soca artiste Shal Marshall, gospel artiste Jaron Nurse and Tobago Rhythm Section.
Charles, who won the leadership by a run-off in the 2016 internal election, is among four people contesting the position. The others are Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance and the Economy Joel Jack; TT Ambassador to Costa Rica Tracy Davidson-Celestine and former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt Angus.
Charles said he is thankful police have been proactive in incidents where tourists have been negatively affected.
“Recently, we had that experience. But, thank God for some alert Tobagonians as well as the tourism-oriented police officers, we were able to apprehend the perpetrator.”
Charles told the gathering criminal acts against visitors could damage Tobago’s tourist sector in the long term.
“I want you to understand that an act against a visitor is an act that can cost us the return of that visitor or more importantly, the return or the coming to Tobago of many visitors. Let us not encourage that.”
Charles said Tobagonians have a role to play in promoting this effort.
The Black Rock/Whim/Spring Garden representative said his administration, if elected for a second term, plans to sensitise stakeholders on efforts in the pipeline to improve Tobago’s tourism product.
Looking ahead in the sector, Charles said the THA is expecting to sign, in the not-too distant future, a contract with the Apple Leisure Group to manage the Magdalena Grand Resort, Lowlands.
He said the Assembly is also in discussion with Sunwing to refurbish the Starfish Hotel in Black Rock.
“For tourism, the prospects are good, the future is bright, opening up opportunities for jobs and making linkages with our agriculture sector and ensuring that at the end of the day, Tobago continues to earn foreign exchange as we expand our facilities both for our residents, our airport and to facilitate the large jets that will come.”
Charles said Tobagonians can look forward to two new ferries on the seabridge, the expansion of the grant/loan programme for young entrepreneurs and the construction of a medical school in April.
He said the URP will also be expanded to facilitate greater agricultural production.
Charles said the women involved in the programme planted over 100 paw paw trees, most of which are ready for export to Trinidad, Caribbean and North-America.
“When last Tobago export paw paw? That is revolutionary. Tobago has been importing paw paw. But that underscores the shift that has been taking place in respect of this administration.”
In his address, Charles also reiterated his administration’s achievements in education, community development and infrastructure.