Buccoo tour operators want more flights

Lifeguard Kester Kent makes his rounds at Store Bay, Tuesday to ensure sea bathers are safe. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE  -
Lifeguard Kester Kent makes his rounds at Store Bay, Tuesday to ensure sea bathers are safe. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE -

Buccoo Reef tour operators are reporting a very slow start to business, two days after the Prime Minister announced his decision to lift restriction on beaches.

On Saturday Dr Rowley, during a press conference, said beaches were allowed to reopen from October 26 from 6am-6 pm. People are still required to wear masks and practise physical distancing at beaches.

Two weeks before, Rowley had lifted restrictions on tours at the Buccoo Reef Marine Park and the Caroni Swamp. However, going into the water at the Nylon Pool was still prohibited.

As the news of the ease on beaches came, tour operators were excited to resume.

However, the Buccoo Reef Tour Operators Association said they have not seen any increase in interested clients.

"Things are open, the beach has reopened, we can have tours again. But there are no customers," vice president of the Buccoo Reef Tour Operators Michael Frank told Newsday.

He said, "Nobody ain't come Monday and nobody ain't come Tuesday.

"I think it's because there isn't enough flights. They need to add on more flights.

"The flights seem like they only catering for essential people mainly. The actual tourism isn't benefiting from people coming on the domestic bridge."

Two weeks ago Caribbean Airlines bumped up flights from two to six per day, after Rowley gave the instruction. However, flights remain at 50 per cent capacity.

Tour operators are optimistic things will improve by the weekend.

Frank said, "We are hopeful it will pick up by then but for now, nothing. None of the tour operators made a trip since the restrictions have been lifted.

"Right now we have to plan if things don't pick up. I mean, we can't force people to go on a boat. And the worst part about it is, the people who really want to go on tours want to go more in the evening, so that they could see the sunset and have a drink. But that's not allowed, because beach closing 6 pm. That's another problem."

Asked about the new guidelines released by the Division of Food Production, Forestry and Fisheries on Monday, Frank said, "That is total bulls--t."

Friends from Trinidad enjoy a sea bath at Pigeon Point on Monday. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE -

In a press release, the division outlined new guidelines for the Buccoo Marine Park, including the need for an access permit to enter the area. Commercial fishing vessels will be issued a transit permit; and are not registered to transport passengers on reef tours. Jet skis are not permitted at this time, to operate within the Buccoo Reef Marine Park.

All potential users wishing to access or transit this restricted area must complete and submit an application form for consideration by the division. Permit fees continue to be waived until the end of December.

Application forms for access to the Buccoo Reef Marine Park are available at the Department of Marine Resources and Fisheries at Milshirv Complex, Shirvan Road.

The division said tours to the Buccoo Reef Marine Park and Speyside Reef must not exceed 50 per cent capacity and must only be held between 9 am and 5 pm. Everyone must wear face shields or masks during the tour and the consumption of alcohol is prohibited.

Frank said, "You can't tell people that they can't have a drink in their cooler if they going on a boat trip, you don't have the control. We are not aiding or going with that.

"And even with this pass system in place for us to do the tours, it's against and fighting what we doing.

"Since they announced that system it's a whole set of guidelines they announce such as: we can't operate before 9 am; we can't have music on the boat.

"This will destroy tourism. As a matter of fact, the fisheries department will destroy tourism because they are against everything that is tourism."

He said the association plans to meet with Chief Secretary and Secretary for the Division of Tourism and Transportation Ancil Dennis soon.

Cousins Sirleny Guevara, from left, Valeria and Renata Marino enjoy the evening at Store Bay, Monday as beaches were reopened. PHOTO BY AYANNA KINSALE -

"We also plan to meet with the administrator for the fisheries department, but thinking about this whole thing, it's best we go straight to the chief secretary who has the responsibility for keeping the island's tourism product alive."

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"Buccoo tour operators want more flights"

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