British Airways (BA) made its return to Tobago on Monday, its first flight here since March 2020 when the country’s borders were shut down to prevent the spread of covid19.
A total of 94 passengers disembarked flight BA 2157, which departed London Gatwick at 9.15 am and arrived at the ANR Robinson Airport at 4.30pm, five minutes earlier than their scheduled time.
Speaking with members of the media at the ANR Robinson International Airport in Crown Point, Secretary of Tourism Tashia Burris said the return of the flight was a good sign.
She said: “I exhaled. It was a sigh of relief because I know that there were a number of of persons who... they lost a lot during this time. So, for BA to retain confidence in Tobago as a destination, it made me feel heartened that this is a signal of things to come.”
Burris said the division's aim is to welcome over 100,000 visitors annually.
“Today is a start. Some people may think that the road to 100,000 is an impossible task and some people say that it's an impossible dream, but the reality is that this administration is known for dreaming big...”
She said the division is signalling to all persons involved that they intend to put in the work to achieve those big goals.
“Mind you, I did not put a timeframe to it. I indicated that I want to get us back to the days of 100,000 per year. I didn’t say we’ll get it this year but certainly I know that with the stakeholders that we have on board....”
She said one of the first things is engaging the stakeholders in a way to ensure that their businesses can get back up and running to be able to support the industry as well as to encourage greater collaboration between the division and those stakeholders as well among each other.
“The solution lies in us being innovative in this time. The way we did things before is not the way we can continue to do things.”
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said he was excited by the return of the flight and the prospects that it brings.
“It is a returning partner. It’s a flight we have partnered with before so it’s a sign that we have been able to retain our global partnerships. Secondly, this is the very first international flight that we’ve had in almost two years. We started with just under 90 passenger arrivals, comparatively some of the other islands that are now doing well with arrivals started with far less than we did, so I am hopeful that this is indicative of what is to come.
"But it’s also a sign that we have to do two things concurrently – we have to build out our covid19 response in a firm way and we also have to simultaneously reopen the economy of Tobago and get business back up and running.”
UK visitor Sue Jones told Newsday that prior to covid19, she had been visiting Tobago every year since 2012.
“This is the first opportunity to come back to Tobago since covid19 – I feel amazing. Tobago is a very special place, and it has a big piece of my heart.”
She will be on the island for four weeks. What is she looking forward to during this time?
“Liming, lobsters and snorkelling.”
Visitors Hugh Bishop and his wife Janice, also from the UK, are visiting the island for the very first time.
“I am excited," Hugh said. "A friend of ours has a villa here and he invited us.”
He said he had tried to come to Tobago in 2020 but could not owing to the border closure.
The couple said they are excited to experience the attractions on the island.
Hugh said, “I’m here for five weeks and we’re planning to go to the beaches because we’ve heard that they’ve reopened. We would go to your lovely restaurants, use the bars, go fishing, go on your glass-bottom boats, meet some people.”
Virgin Atlantic is expected to make its return to Tobago on January 29.