THA Chief Secretary Ancil Dennis estimates that Tobago’s tourism sector has lost more than $300 million since the start of the covid19 pandemic in March 2020.
Dennis gave the figure on Wednesday at the post executive council news conference, Victor E Bruce Financial Complex, Scarborough.
He also revealed that more than 6,000 jobs – persons who lost their jobs as well as those who had their salaries reduced – have been affected by the pandemic.
“If I were to quantify the losses in dollars and cents. And this, of course, can be quite controversial and debatable, the estimates that I have available to me, signals that there might have been losses in the tourism sector in Tobago in excess of $300 million thus far,” he said.
Dennis said all facets of life have been affected by the pandemic.
But he said there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
With the reopening of the borders, Dennis said the Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd (TTAL) has been holding discussions with a number of airlines with respect to international flights.
He said a German airline has signalled its intention to resume flights to Tobago in November.
Dennis added British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also expressed interest in resuming flights to the island but no specific date has been given.
He said discussions are also under way with Sunwing in Canada.
He added, “Discussions with Caribbean Airlines have been very fruitful and they have committed, thus far, to resuming a direct flight to Tobago out of New York.”
Dennis said more will be revealed on this very soon.
“There is also a commitment to have a direct service from Barbados to Tobago.
“That will allow us here in Tobago to benefit from some of the markets that our Bajan counterparts are exposed to.”
Saying the pandemic has also allowed for a period of reflection within the tourism sector, Dennis said customer service has been a longstanding issue.
In this regard, he revealed that the TTAL in collaboration with the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Institute will be engaging a “reputable and upstanding” international organisation to facilitate customer service training across the entire island.
It will be launched later this month.
“It is going to be an islandwide training exercise to ensure that we improve customer service. We will be trying to as far as possible encourage and, in some cases, incentivise the participation in that programme.
“Because I think all of us must be prepared to admit that from tourism sector to public service, our customer service is nowhere where it should be. Therefore, that intervention must come and it will come now.”
Dennis said he expects Tobagonians will participate in this “critical and important initiative.”