AFTER weeks of little to no revenue generated by tourism – the island's lifeblood – chairman of the Tobago Business Chamber Martin George was telling Trinis, “welcome, welcome, welcome,” as he responded to the Prime Minister’s announcement that Caribbean Airlines will expand flights to and from Tobago, in a bid to resume domestic tourism.
“We invite you to come to Tobago. The beaches would be opened in a few days’ time so therefore you would be able to have your wonderful vacation right here in Tobago as normal. We welcome all Trinis because this is the best place, in fact it probably would be the only place you can come for vacation until the international borders are reopened,” George said on Monday.
On Saturday, as part of a suite of announcements on the latest phase of relaxing if covid19 restrictions, Dr Rowley said, “With respect to the services to Tobago, we’ve been in communication with Caribbean Airlines and Caribbean Airlines would from Monday, would expand its service to whatever is applicable as per bookings requested and would run return services getting back to close to what we used to have before. So, getting to and from Tobago, would no longer be restricted.”
Speaking on Monday, George said the PM's pronouncements were welcomed news for businessmen. "For the foreseeable future, Tobago would be the only place for you and your families to come and relax and have a wonderful vacation.
“In that regard, we welcome these initiatives, we welcome the fact that the beaches would soon be opened and we therefore look forward to hosting and treating all our Trinidadians who come over to Tobago, so that they enjoy a wonderful vacation with their families,” he said.
Rowley encouraged people to travel to Tobago, "which is now your singular access of recreation.”
He declared, “Tobago is wide open for business and they would love to have you, come to Tobago. A similar kind of response would come from the port, so the connection between TT would be ramped up from Monday to some semblance of normalcy.”
George, however, is of the view that the quote “Tobago is now wide open for business” is “a little bit cliche.”
“We’re heard this mantra repeated several times before and what exactly does it mean, how can Tobago be opened for business when you have the stifling and crippling effects of the Foreign Investment Act, which prevents the direct foreign investment from overseas persons from being able to inject valuable foreign exchange into the economy in Tobago,” he said.
Although less restrictive than the Aliens (Landholding) Act which it replaced, the Foreign Investment Act still provides regulations governing foreign investors' interests in TT.
George said that the chamber has called repeatedly for the government to repeal, unconditionally, the Foreign Investment Act.
“Until that is done, we really do not take any comfort or solace whatsoever in the cliche statement and the oft repeated mantra that Tobago is open for business, that means nothing if you don’t put the legislative and fundamental mechanism in place to actually facilitate such business,” he said.