Duke: Tourism, business dead under PNM

File photo: Progressive Democratic Patriots leader Watson Duke. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
File photo: Progressive Democratic Patriots leader Watson Duke. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) political leader Watson Duke has blamed the PNM for the state of tourism in Tobago.

In a Facebook live video on Friday morning, Duke toured a deserted Store Bay Beach Facility in Crown Point and took a short walk to the recently-closed Coco Reef Resort and Spa.

As the waves crashed gently along the shore, a few workers were seen removing debris from the sand.

Duke hailed the beauty of his island, but said it is not achieving its full potential.

He asked why a jetty had not been built at Store Bay, where many glass-bottom boats accept passengers to tour the Buccoo reef.

“If you want to go to the Buccoo reef, you have to skip through the water. You run the risk of missing your footing and falling into the water. There should be a jetty – could be a temporary board jetty.”

Duke said Tobago remains lagging in tourism behind many of its Caribbean neighbours.

“In 2019 – before covid – Tobago had 20,000 international tourists coming here.

“You know how many tourists Antigua had? Antigua had one million tourists coming to their shores in 2019. That worked out to be almost US$1 billion.

“They are big on tourism. They are not as beautiful as this island, but they are big on tourism.

“PNM has destroyed tourism in Tobago. How could people in Tobago forgive PNM for destroying tourism?”

Duke said Tobago’s tourism numbers' being lower than Antigua's was because the government was not serious about the sector.

“In Antigua, there is a cruise ship complex. In Tobago, there is none,”

In his general election promise last year, Duke promised to build a cruise ship complex in Plymouth.

A deserted Store Bay beach last week. Beaches have been closed for the last four months owing to the rise in covid19 cases. Photo by David Reid

Duke described the popular food huts at the Store Bay Beach Facility as a “ghost town” and wondered what was the economic impact of the anti-covid19 restrictions.

“How they paying their staff? How they paying rent? How are they surviving?

“Can the lil ‘kakada’ the government offering reach in time to prevent the bank from closing in on them?”

August is usually a bumper month for domestic tourism in Tobago, with thousands of Trinidadians choosing to vacation there.

However, beaches and most of the entertainment sector have been closed since April.

Duke was also critical of some of the public health regulations which restrict movement to protect against the spread of covid19.

“Even if there is no tourist around, even if the beaches are closed, the government should still encourage public outings. Allow the people to enjoy the islands.”

Noting a number of Tobago’s hotels have been shut down owing to the pandemic, Duke lamented Coco Reef falling to the same fate.

The hotel has been temporarily closed until vaccination numbers increase and the outlook on the tourism sector improves.

“Business dead,” Duke said. “They have destroyed Tobago, they have shut down one of the leading hotels in the Caribbean.

“No tourists going in, no tourists coming out.”

He said his party is ready to lead a revitalisation of tourism.

HARD TIMES: Store Bay vendor Patsy Thompson said sales have been dismal at the Store Bay Beach Facility, where she has been selling for over 40 years. Photo by David Reid

“So I am very glad election will be soon and we will be given an opportunity to change the politics of this country. Tobago has an opportunity again to mature differently, to implement a different economic plan than that of the PNM.

“Let us fight back against this oppression.”


"Duke: Tourism, business dead under PNM"

More in this section