British Airways flight arrives Monday in Tobago

Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Grace Burris. -
Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Grace Burris. -

Almost two years after the country’s borders were shut down to prevent the spread of covid19, international flights to Tobago will resume from Monday.

Secretary of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Grace Burris has confirmed that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will resume flights to the island on January 10 and 29, respectively.

But when asked by Newsday about the arrangements in place for the British Airways flight on Monday, Tobago Tourism Agency Ltd CEO Louis Lewis did not want to give details.

He would only say that the agency is working with the division and the Airport Authority of Trinidad and Tobago “to receive the British Airways flight.”

In an interview with Newsday on Wednesday, restaurateur and former president of the Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association (THTA) Nicholas Hardwicke welcomed the resumption of international flights, saying it could potentially be a sign of good things to come for Tobago’s struggling economy.

“It is good news. It is potentially overdue and hopefully signals a point in time where we can anticipate returning to some semblance of normalcy as far as international arrivals are concerned,” he said.

“The airlines have been waiting for the appropriate signal from central government and it is very important that the historical airlines that have come in here in the past – Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and others – are given the assurance that they can resume flight services on a regular and anticipated basis so that they can martial their resources accordingly to support us.”

Hardwicke, owner of the Black Rock-based Seahorse Inn Restaurant, said Tobago cannot exist for any prolonged period of time without international airlift.

“Without international airlift, as a tourism destination basically we don’t exist, and we have to not only re-ignite the air links that we had before but go further and look to improve the nature of the air access that we have got by growing demand for the destination to signal to the airlines that Tobago is not only worthy of maintaining its service but improving the quality of it, in terms of coming directly rather than indirectly through other destinations.”

He added, “That must be the overriding ambition of the destination – to secure not only air links but of the style and quality that is required to support the destination. We need to now take this opportunity so that we can re-engage international air links to start to look at broadening our market approach.”

Hardwicke said accessing the North American market is a must.

“Canada is albeit going through some issues at the moment, but has huge potential for Tobago as does the United States, as does Scandinavia. These are markets we are not served by directly or even indirectly and we need to put measures in place to access those as well.”

Hardwicke said the international flights "is a turning point in so far as getting back on the map for international tourism and that, as we know, is absolutely vital. International tourism is the bread and butter business, it is really meant to serve.

“That is where we earn foreign exchange. That is where we spread the word internationally about the wonderful attractions that the island has and that’s where the real volume, potentially, in terms of the economic impact that tourism can have for Trinidad and Tobago, can be found.”

Hardwick said while Tobago has had to rely on the domestic market since the closure of the borders to the international market on March 22, 2020, the resumption of foreign flights to Tobago “presents an opportunity for us to get back to what we should be doing – treating with the international market and international visitors.”

The news that British Airways is expected to resume flights to Tobago from Monday came just days after THTA vice-president Carol-Ann Birchwood-James urged the new THA administration to meet urgently with hoteliers and other businessmen to devise strategies to put the island on a growth path.

She reiterated Tobago’s tourism sector has been decimated by the effects of the covid19 pandemic over the past two years, adding that many businessmen were struggling to stay afloat.

Birchwood-James noted there were no international flights coming to Tobago and domestic flights were limited.

She said over the past 18 months, Tobago has had to rely on domestic tourism to survive.

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"British Airways flight arrives Monday in Tobago"

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