Tobago Tourism Agency CEO Louis Lewis has welcomed the government's decision to implement a special grant facility for hoteliers to upgrade their establishments in the midst of the novel coronavirus (covid19) pandemic. He said covid19 has added a new challenge to the tourism sector which will have to be navigated strategically.
The island's tourism sector is already being severely affected by the virus with some hoteliers reporting their occupancy levels are currently at ten per cent and declining.
Speaking on Thursday at a news conference at the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, Habib Building, Wilson Road, Scarborough, Lewis said the Government's gesture is a step in the right direction."We are very heartened by the fact that the Prime Minister and Deputy Chief Secretary (Joel Jack) has mentioned there is a reconsideration of the tourism accommodation upgrade programme," he said.
"We have gotten to a point where, in 2018, we had five or six properties engaged. Last year, we had 22 that are engaged in the process. Now it becomes even more relevant and we have to look at the dynamics to see how we can get more properties to upgrade their products."Lewis said covid19 has forced the agency to rethink its marketing strategy going forward."We have accepted and understood that this virus is going to recalibrate tourism and the world."What we would have seen coming out of the world economic crisis in 2009 as well as the events that followed from September 11, 2001 (terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre), this crisis is going to have a much more significant impact on people's willingness and ability to travel and that is something that we have to be mindful of."He said the shift in mindset would not happen overnight."We have to be promoting Tobago where we will have to be addressing what the new market demands will look like, what are the emerging opportunities that we can fit ourselves into, how do we create the demand for Tobago as that ideal destination. And we will have to implement some strategies that are very different to what we have done in the past."
Lewis said the island's competitiveness must be re-assessed."A lot of our strategies will be how do we enhance our competitiveness while we are dealing with the current issues. That is the strategy we will be employing going forward."
Emerging out of covid19, Lewis said, tourists will be looking for activities that are "safe, secure and they want the assurance they will not have any negative impact.
"That is why the transition and our management of this whole crisis is very important and we are communicating every day to our stakeholders both external and internal. Our survivability beyond this occurrence will depend critically on how we manage that whole process and we are paying a lot of emphasis on that as we go forward."