Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James believes the $52 billion budget does not offer any innovative strategies for rebuilding the island’s tourism sector, post-covid19.
“There is nothing really creative, to me, to drive this economy forward,” she told Newsday.
Birchwood-James said while Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke at length about the Government’s commitment to reinvigorating tourism, he did not identify any specific strategies to market Tobago.
“We did not hear much about airlift, and we want direct airlift. We did not hear much about cruise ships. So the future of tourism was not really addressed.”
Birchwood-James said also she expected to hear about the proposed marina project for the island.
“The talk came up again, but nobody told us when it is going to start. The marina can make a lot of foreign exchange, especially at a time like this. You need a cruise-ship berth where you can have two or three cruise ships alongside one another.
“If we have six months of cruise-ship season and we have two ships in Scarborough and one ship in Charlotteville, we are in business. There is a lot of foreign exchange that can come from that.”
But Birchwood-James is grateful for the Government’s $50 million bailout for hoteliers and guesthouse operators severely affeccted by the ongoing effects of the covid19 pandemic.
“What they have done, for the first time, they have listened to us and, therefore there is a $50 million facility for operations. That could help you pay your salaries, some of your utility bills, so that your hotels can be in operation again.”
She said she intends to meet with the association’s president Chris James next week to discuss the initiative.
“We are not going to wait for them (Government). We are going to push them to action, because our hotels need money right away.”