Tobago hoteliers discuss covid19 plan

Visitors at Pigeon Point, Tobago on July 21, 2019. Tobago hoteliers and businessowners are to develop a plan for their operations amid the covid19 pandemic. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -
Visitors at Pigeon Point, Tobago on July 21, 2019. Tobago hoteliers and businessowners are to develop a plan for their operations amid the covid19 pandemic. PHOTO BY JEFF K MAYERS -

COREY CONNELLY

Tobago hoteliers and businessowners are expected to present a proposal to the Government, this week, on how they intend to upgrade their establishments in preparation for future business.

So said Carol-Ann Birchwood-James, vice-president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association.

Birchwood-James was among the entrepreneurs and stakeholders who met with a ministerial team, last week, to discuss strategies to help businesses withstand the impact of the covid19 pandemic. The team included Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Allyson West.

The ministers held a news conference at the Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort, Lowlands, on Friday, which was chaired by Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles. Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack said on Thursday some hoteliers have already reported drastic declines in their occupancy levels as a result of covid19.

The Prime Minister announced a slew of measures for the Tobago business community, last week, aimed at mitigating the fallout from the virus. One such initiative is a special grant facility to provide for the upgrade of hotels, guesthouses and other small businesses, generally, as the pandemic unfolds.

On Saturday, the number of cases reported in Trinidad rose to 49 with 40 people testing positive for the virus. They were among a group of 68 people in quarantine at Balandra after their return from a cruise ship in Guadeloupe on March 10. Tobago has no confirmed cases.

Birchwood-James told Sunday Newsday the position paper will outline the criteria for the renovations. “We are going to be working in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and we will come up on a position paper together with the ministry as to how we are going to do these renovations. So, there are no details yet.”

She said the discussions also addressed payment for workers and added that affected workers are being advised to apply to social services for food cards and grants.

“On Monday, we will know where the workers have to go. That is how they are going to be seeing about our people, through their social services. They are not going to give any cash to owners for you have to pay. But they will tell us how they are going to do it on Monday.” Regarding mortgages, she said Government has been in talks with the banks with respect to concessions and initiatives, several of which were outlined in the prime minister’s address about covid19, last week. Birchwood-James described the meetings as fruitful but solemn.

“I think the meetings went well. A lot of our questions were answered. People just wanted to get information because a lot of them are in distress and I think they understood the government is trying as best as they could.”

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