$88m covid19 blow to Tobago

Tobago Tourism Agency CEO Louis Lewis. - DAVID REID
Tobago Tourism Agency CEO Louis Lewis. - DAVID REID

Tobago Tourism Agency CEO Louis Lewis has projected the island stands to lose approximately TT$88 million in potential revenue by the end of June owing to the restrictions imposed by Government to tackle the covid19 pandemic.

He also estimates the overwhelming loss in business could see a displacement of about 6,000 workers within Tobago's tourism sector. Tourism is the island's main revenue earner.

Lewis gave the staggering figures on Tuesday during a news conference, hosted by the Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development, at the Scarborough Library.

The briefing sought to update the public about the measures being undertaken by the covid19 task force to prevent the spread of the virus in Tobago.

On Monday, the island recorded its first confirmed case, one of two people who fell ill while in quarantine after returning to Tobago recently.

The patient, who had been in isolation at Scarborough General Hospital since Sunday, was expected to be transferred to Trinidad late Tuesday.

With the recent ban on cruise ships and international flights to Tobago, Lewis told reporters the agency has started assessing the economic ramifications.

Describing as "staggering" some of the figures that came to light, Lewis revealed Tobago experienced a 21 per cent increase in arrivals in January before the onset of covid19.

"The virus...started to impact on us in February and we actually saw an 18 per cent decline," he said.

"And if you assess the difference between an 18 per cent decline and a 20 percent increase, it is a significant change. It started to affect people's perception of safety for taking vacations. And a lot of our business its actually long haul. So, it started to impact on us."

Lewis described the figures for March as "disastrously low.

"So, when we quantify those metrics to see what we would have lost...In the first quarter, from January to March, we estimate that on-island visitor expenditure would have lost about TT$33 million of business coming into Tobago. So the economic implications of something like that would obviously be very, very difficult."

Lewis predicted the situation is not likely to improve significantly during the second quarter, April to June.

"We are projecting a loss of about $54 million and that is the first round expenditure from what we would have gained from visitors being in Tobago."

He also projected the blockage on cruise lines would have caused a $1.5 million loss in potential revenue.

"So, you add all of things together between the middle of February and going to the end of June, we would have lost about $88 million worth of business. So, that is a quantification of the loss as we see it thus far."

Lewis said the constriction of visitors will undoubtedly have implications for employment.

"We did a survey between Thursday and up to yesterday (Monday), looking at the employment implications and we are seeing a displacement of about 4,500 within the accommodation component of the tourism sector."

He added in some instances, a person may serve more than one establishment.

"We might have a taxi driver servicing more than one property or a dive operator who has more than one contract supplying hotels.

"And we looking at another displacement of about 1,500 persons, taking that into total is about 6,000 people who have moved from full employment to being displaced as result of the constriction."

Lewis applauded the Government's intervention, through the provision of a $400 million temporary unemployment grant, in trying to meet the needs of the affected workers over the next three months, in the first instance.

"So it is a very difficult one and we have to find ways in which we could protect the employment and move towards job security and maintain some level of business."


"$88m covid19 blow to Tobago"

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