THE Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association is reporting a welcome rise in occupancy for the long Easter weekend, saying there is a 76 per cent rise in occupancy that heavily favours villas, which are at 90 per cent occupancy.
It will be a quiet Easter weekend compared to pre-2020 years, but it's still good news for Tobago, which has experienced dramatically diminished visitor numbers over a full pandemic year.
Yet the association's president Chris James wasn't too excited about the new business, expected to peak for just four days with a slump on weekdays.
Staff and operations will have to be adjusted to meet the sharp spikes in occupancy.
That isn't the real problem, though.
A surge in tourism on the island brings additional demands resulting from more interactions and gatherings, which the Tobago House of Assembly is yet to announce a plan to manage.
The way that Tobago handles an influx of visitors keen to have a good time will foreshadow the challenges it will face over the longer July-August vacation, when the island's hospitality business will have an opportunity to benefit from a larger, sustained influx of “staycation” arrivals.
While there are no planned public events in Tobago over the Easter weekend, that isn't going to stop vacation visitors from inventing their own entertainment, and the THA should have formulated guidelines and policing measures to manage any failures of common sense and potential danger to public health that may result.
The upcoming Easter holiday will happen in parallel with monitoring by the Ministry of Health of a rise in covid19 cases worrying enough for Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to announce a hiatus on permission for public vigils and marches. While there are no additional restrictions on religious observances, the commissioner also asked for strict adherence to existing regulations for tomorrow's Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day and Easter's religious celebrations.
Visitors to Tobago for the Easter vacation should also be clear about what's possible and inadvisable during their stay.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister warned that TT is not in a post-pandemic phase and vehemently urged citizens vacationing over Easter to continue following covid19 protocols.
It is possible to both relax and be careful. Covid19 is still with us.
For its part, the THA should be surveying its available tourism assets and evaluating how or even if they should be opened for public use. Rules for available beaches and public recreation areas on the island should be clearly defined and explained to visitors on arrival to ensure a safe vacation.
The Easter weekend will be the first test of Tobago's capacity to manage an influx of visitors, and the outcome may affect how many people, even after months feeling cooped up in Trinidad, remain willing to venture even that far. The island must be ready.