Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis is making no apologies for the transformation taking place in Buccoo.
For him, it fits into the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA’s) strategic plan to develop the island’s tourism sector post covid19.
On Tuesday, residents awoke to the breathtaking sight of an I Love Buccoo sign, located along the boardwalk, which is still to be completed.
The sign was unveiled on the same day the village’s goat racing festivities would have been held.
The event, which usually takes place at the Buccoo Integrated Facility, was cancelled for the second consecutive year owing to covid19.
Dennis, who is also the Secretary of Tourism, Culture and Transportation and representative for the area, said Buccoo will not be left out of Tobago’s development.
“As well all know, Buccoo is a major tourism hotspot in the country and, therefore, the boardwalk project that started in 2018, that sign is simply a part of that overall project,” Dennis told Newsday Tobago.
He said by the time the project is completed, the entire Buccoo beachfront will be transformed.
Dennis said the Buccoo beachfront has been heavily criticised over the years.
Now, he said: “That beachfront is no longer a shanty town as some people would have called it. It is now being transformed and the residents of Buccoo welcome it and I am sure all of Tobago will welcome it.”
Dennis continued: “So, what is happening in Buccoo is really part of an overall plan to improve the tourism sector so that we will be more competitive as a destination going forward.”
He said the boardwalk, including the sign, is simply one such project.
“But more will be undertaken in other areas of Tobago to ensure that the quality of the environment and its social spaces is improved.
“We will continue to make that investment. As a result of that, I am sure the island will reap the rewards in terms of dollars and cents.
“So, it is not just about spending. It is an investment and we will reap the rewards as we move forward into the new post covid19 tourism sector.”
Dennis said the THA has identified three critical areas for improvement.
Firstly, he said the tourism sector must be regulated.
Dennis said this includes the new regulatory framework the THA is seeking to implement in the Buccoo Marine Park to ensure high standards of safety, excellent customer service and basic decency and order.
“This will also include the regulation of our properties in the accommodation sector, ensuring that they adhere to proper standards, that their properties will be up to certain standards to ensure safety of our visitors gain.”
The development and maintenance of sites and attractions is also a top priority.
Saying the THA is in the process of upgrading a number of them, Dennis said they have also identified some key areas that lend itself to this type of development.
Dennis said customer service training is a must.
He said the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd will partner with a reputable, international customer service training entity to ensure workers in the sector receive a high level of training.
“That training will be very broad and it will be very rigorous and robust.”
Dennis scoffed at those who believe improvements to the tourism sector should not be a priority as TT grapples with covid19.
“I understand that some may say now is not the time because of our economic position. But now is the time to invest in our tourism sector. Now is the time to invest in our creative sector.”
He asked: “How else will we position the island to benefit from the future tourism sector? How else will we signal to the world and to the rest of the country that we are serious about diversifying the Tobago economy?”
Dennis said apart from the tourism and creative sectors, investment must also be made in the agriculture sector.
“Those are the three critical sectors to Tobago right now. That is the future of the Tobago economy, even the now.”
Dennis assured there is funding to treat with various social relief initiatives arising from the pandemic, including grants and food cards.
“We continue to spend significant sums of money on that as well as bailing out businesses during this difficult period.
“But we have to prepare for the future of the island and invest in what is needed for our development economically.”